National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

A Si-Cl geothermobarometer for the reaction zone of high-temperature, basaltic-hosted mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems

Fontaine, F.J., W.S.D. Wilcock, D.E. Foustoukos, and D.A. Butterfield

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 10(5), Q05009, doi: 10.1029/2009GC002407 (2009)

The chemical composition of mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent fluids is thought to reflect conditions within a deep-seated reaction zone. Although temperature and pressure conditions within this region are key parameters that characterize the subseafloor hydrothermal regime and the cooling of mid-ocean ridges, they are poorly constrained. In this paper, we developed a model in which high-temperature, vapor-type (low-salinity) vent fluid silica (Si) and chlorine (Cl) concentrations can be used to define lines in pressuretemperature space whose intersection is used to estimate conditions at the top of the reaction zone, under the simplifying assumption that Si and Cl reflect a common point of equilibration. We apply this model to various basaltic-hosted mid-ocean ridge sites. Results suggest a minimal variation in inferred temperatures, ranging from 415 to 445°C. This lends support to the fluxibility model in which upwelling hydrothermal plumes rise at temperatures that maximize the energy flux. Quartz precipitation due to reequilibration during upflow tends to lower temperature and pressure estimates and can artificially indicate shallower transition from reaction to upflow zone. However, maximum equilibration pressures are site-dependent and compare well with depth to magma chamber imaged by seismic studies. This suggests that vapors circulate close to magma chambers and is difficult to reconcile with models in which mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal circulation occurs in two layers with a substantial layer of convecting brine. Accordingly, equilibration pressure predicted by our model can also be used to infer the depth of the magma chamber at sites where seismic data are not available but where vapor-like fluids have been collected and analyzed.

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