Relation Between Volcanism, Tectonism and Hydrothermal Activity Along the Global Mid-Ocean Ridge System
Susan E. Humphris
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts ([email protected])
Just over 30 years ago, scientists exploring the global mid-ocean ridge system made the spectacular discovery of black smokers—hydrothermal chimneys made of metal sulfide minerals that vigorously discharge hot, particulate-laden fluids into the ocean. These chimneys are the surface manifestation of convection of seawater through the oceanic crust and water-rock reactions that produce hot, hydrothermal fluids that discharge at the seafloor. This hydrothermal circulation process plays an important role in regulating the chemistry of seawater, building mineral deposits, and supporting chemosynthetically-based ecosystems.
Early studies focused on hydrothermal systems on the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise, where shallow magma lenses beneath the ridge crest provide heat to drive convection of seawater through the oceanic crust. Ten years later, studies of the slow-spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge revealed much larger mineral deposits – a surprising result given the lower magma delivery rate and heat availability.
Through the use of different deep-submergence technologies, this talk will explore the characteristics of vents and their associated communities along the mid-ocean ridge, and the varying relations between volcanic and tectonic processes at sites on ridges of different spreading rates. It will focus in particular on how one active hydrothermal system has constructed a large mineral deposit on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and how recent experiments at that site have shed light on the role tectonics and faulting play in the evolution of long-lived hydrothermal systems.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90086 © 2008 AAPG Foundation Distinguished Lecturer Series 2008-2009