• Most seafloor hydrothermal circulation occurs far from the magmatic influence of mid-ocean
    ridges, driving large flows of water, heat and solutes through volcanic rock outcrops on ridge
    flanks. Here we create three-dimensional simulations of ridge–flank hydrothermal circulation,
    flowing between and through seamounts, to determine what controls hydrogeological
    sustainability, flow rate and preferred flow direction in these systems. We find that sustaining
    flow between outcrops that penetrate less-permeable sediment depends on a contrast in
    transmittance (the product of outcrop permeability and the area of outcrop exposure)
    between recharging and discharging sites, with discharge favoured through less-transmissive
    outcrops. Many simulations include local discharge through outcrops at the recharge end of
    an outcrop-to-outcrop system. Both of these characteristics are observed in the field.
    In addition, smaller discharging outcrops sustain higher flow rates than larger outcrops, which
    may help to explain how so much lithospheric heat is extracted globally by this process.

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, 95064, California, USA



    Copyright: DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8567 © 2015 copyright

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