National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1999

On the calculation of total heat, salt and tracer fluxes from ocean hydrothermal events

Lavelle, J.W., E.T. Baker, and G.J. Massoth

Deep-Sea Res. Pt. II, 45(12), 2619–2636, doi: 10.1016/S0967-0645(98)00086-1 (1998)

Total heat, salt, and other tracer masses released during a hydrothermal event are shown to be proportional to, but not necessarily equal to, volume integrals of resulting water column anomalies. Proportionality coefficients depend on anomaly definition, on background hydrographic and tracer profiles, on expansion coefficients of the equation of state at an appropriate pressure, and on tracer to heat anomaly ratios at the venting source. For Gorda Ridge event plumes, which are described in other papers of this issue, volume integrals of conventionally defined heat anomalies underestimate actual released heat by a factor of 2.4 if the discharge is not anomalously saline. Under certain combinations of hydrographic and source anomaly conditions, not unlike those found on the East Pacific Rise at 10°N, the apparent total heat released during an event can be deceivingly zero. This analysis also establishes a linear relationship between the ratio of tracer anomaly to heat anomaly at any point in the plume to the same ratio at the source. One consequence is that the ratio of anomalous 3He to heat in Gorda Ridge event plumes is approximately 2.4 larger in the water column than it is at the source. Results are independent of the entrainment process involved in event plume formation and they are shown to hold true even for background hydrographic profiles that do not vary linearly with depth.

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