National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2017

Hydrothermal plume mapping as a prospecting tool for seafloor sulfide deposits: A case study at the Zouyu-1 and Zouyu-2 hydrothermal fields in the southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Tao, C., S. Chen, E.T. Baker, H. Li, J. Liang, S. Liao, Y.J. Chen, X. Deng, G. Zhang, C. Gu, and J. Wu

Mar. Geophys. Res., 38(1), 3–16, doi: 10.1007/s11001-016-9275-2 (2017)

Seafloor hydrothermal polymetallic sulfide deposits are a new type of resource, with great potential economic value and good prospect development. This paper discusses turbidity, oxidation–reduction potential, and temperature anomalies of hydrothermal plumes from the Zouyu-1 and Zouyu-2 hydrothermal fields on the southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We use the known location of these vent fields and plume data collected in multiple years (2009, 2011, 2013) to demonstrate how real-time plume exploration can be used to locate active vent fields, and thus associated sulfide deposits. Turbidity anomalies can be detected 10 s of km from an active source, but the location precision is no better than a few kilometers because fine-grained particles are quasi-conservative over periods of many days. Temperature and oxidation–reduction potential anomalies provide location precision of a few hundred meters. Temperature anomalies are generally weak and difficult to reliably detect, except by chance encounters of a buoyant plume. Oxidation–reduction potential is highly sensitive (nmol concentrations of reduced hydrothermal chemicals) to discharges of all temperatures and responds immediately to a plume encounter. Real-time surveys using continuous tows of turbidity and oxidation–reduction potential sensors offer the most efficient and precise surface ship exploration presently possible.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |