National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

Multiple hydrothermal sources along the south Tonga arc and Valu Fa Ridge

Massoth, G.J., E.T. Baker, T. Worthington, J.E. Lupton, C. de Ronde, R.A. Arculus, S.L. Walker, K. Nakamura, J.-I. Ishibashi, P. Stoffers, J.A. Resing, R. Greene, and G. Lebon

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 8(11), Q11008, doi: 10.1029/2007GC001675 (2007)

Quantifying hydrothermal venting at the boundaries of tectonic plates is an outstanding geoscience problem. Considerable progress has been made by detailed surveys along mid-ocean ridges (MORs), but until recently little was known about fluid venting along volcanic arcs. We present the first systematic survey for hydrothermal venting along the 425-km-long south Tonga arc and new chemistry data for particle and thermal plumes previously reported along an adjacent 88-km-long section of the back-arc Valu Fa Ridge (VFR). Eleven hydrothermal plumes, recognized by their anomalous light backscattering, Eh, temperature, pH, dissolved 3He, CH4, and total dissolvable Fe and Mn, were identified arising from seven volcanic centers along the arc. Five plumes on the VFR were characterized chemically. Vent field density for the south Tonga arc was 2.6 sites/100 km of arc front, comparable to that found by surveys of the Kermadec arc (1.9 to 3.8 sites/100 km) and to MORs in the eastern Pacific (average value for 2280 km of surveyed ridgecrest: 3.2 sites/100 km). A ‘‘vent gap’’ occurs along a 190 km section of the arc closest to the VFR, and a site density twice the average for MORs on the eastern edge of the Pacific plate was found on this part of the VFR (6.6 sites/100 km). We suggest magmas ascending under the adjacent south Tonga arc have been captured by the VFR. While chemical enrichments of plumes on the south Tonga arc were, in general, slightly less than those on the Kermadec arc, several instances of excessive anomalies in pH suggest a similar presence of fluids enriched in magmatic volatiles (CO2-SO2-H2S). Locally, venting on the VFR has contributed to accumulations of 3He, Fe, and Mn within the southern Lau basin. On a broader scale, our results provide considerable support for the notion that venting from intraoceanic arcs on the convergent margin of the Pacific plate adds significantly to the total hydrothermal input into the Pacific Ocean.

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