National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

A turbulent convection model with an observational context for a deep-sea hydrothermal plume in a time-variable cross-flow

Lavelle, J.W., D. Di Iorio, and P. Rona

J. Geophys. Res., 118(11), 6145–6160, doi: 10.1002/2013JC009165 (2013)

A turbulent convection model for a hydrothermal fluid discharging into a tidally modulated, stratified cross flow is used to investigate time-variable conditions in plumes, such as the one rising from Dante, a sulfide mound at ∼2175 m depth on the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. That plume is the consequence of the coalescence of 10 or more small, individual plumes from chimneys discharging hot, salt-diminished fluid into the near-bottom ocean. At Dante, the discharge encounters ambient horizontal currents with speeds oscillating from near zero to a maximum of ∼7 cm s−1, speeds which can bend a plume more than 45° from the vertical. Model results are compatible with field measurements of the plume footprint size and vertical velocity both 20 m above the source when earlier estimates for Dante's heat flux of ∼50 MW drive the convection. The small-scale short period variability of velocities and properties distributions observed in the field is mimicked in model results. Plumes pool above a source during periods of weak cross flows but stream away from the source, with more diluted concentrations and lower rise heights, at other times. Plume distributions, at identical cross-flow speeds, differ whether the flow is accelerating or decelerating. Small changes in background hydrographic profiles create differences in rise heights comparable to those caused by large changes in source buoyancy flux. If put into an entrainment context, results suggest an entrainment coefficient (αEFF) that varies from ∼0.11 to ∼0.025 with increasing height (2–76 m) above the source.

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