National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2003

30,000 years of hydrothermal activity at Lost City vent field

Früh-Green, G.L., D.S. Kelley, S.M. Bernasconi, J.A. Karson, K.A. Ludwig, D.A. Butterfield, C. Boschi, and G. Proskurowski

Science, 301(5630), 495–498, doi: 10.1126/science.1085582 (2003)

Strontium, carbon, and oxygen isotope data and radiocarbon ages document at least 30,000 years of hydrothermal activity driven by serpentinization reactions at Lost City. Serpentinization beneath this off-axis field is estimated to occur at a minimum rate of 1.2 × 10−4 cubic kilometers per year. The access of seawater to relatively cool, fresh peridotite, coupled with faulting, volumetric expansion, and mass wasting processes, are crucial to sustain such systems. The amount of heat produced by serpentinization of peridotite massifs, typical of slow and ultraslow spreading environments, has the potential to drive Lost City-type systems for hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of years.

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