Chemical and thermal constraints on focussed fluid flow in the lower oceanic crust

Coogan, L. A. and Howard, K. A. and Gillis, K. M. and Bickle, M. J. and Chapman, H. J. and Boyce, A. J. and Jenkin, G. R. T. and Wilson, R. N. (2006) Chemical and thermal constraints on focussed fluid flow in the lower oceanic crust. American Journal of Science, 306. pp. 389-427. DOI

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The mechanism of heat extraction from the lower oceanic crust near the ridge axis is poorly constrained despite its importance for understanding both the process of accretion of the plutonic complex and the mass fluxes associated with ridge hydrothermal systems. We have investigated the role of zones of focussed fluid flow in the plutonic complex of the Oman ophiolite in the near-axis cooling of the oceanic crust. Lineaments identified on aerial photographs, that occur at 1 km spacing, show evidence for extensive hydrothermal fluid flow through regions 10 to 50 m wide. Fluid flow is initiated in these regions at 800°C and continues at least into the lower greenschist facies. Strontium-isotope analyses indicate that the fluid flux through these zones is sufficient to transport a metasomatic front from the base of the sheeted dike complex to close to the Moho. Computed minimum fluid fluxes to transport a metasomatic front through the focussed fluid flow zones are 1x108 kgm2. Modeling of diffusive exchange of calcium from olivine to clinopyroxene indicates enhanced cooling rates adjacent to the focussed fluid flow zones. Heat fluxes estimated from the enhanced cooling rates are broadly consistent with the fluid fluxes determined from modeling the Sr-isotopic composition of samples from the focussed fluid flow zones. The combination of independent estimates of the fluid and heat fluxes, such as these, can provide more rigorous constraints on the thermal history than either approach used in isolation. Our results show that focussed fluid flow could play a major role in the cooling in the lower oceanic crust. Significant focussed fluid flow in the lower oceanic crust has important implications for predicting the total mass flux associated with hydrothermal circulation at mid-ocean ridges. This is because fluids flowing through channels become chemically rock-buffered at smaller fluid fluxes than those flowing pervasively through a rock mass. Thus, if focussed fluid flow is an important mechanism of heat loss from the lower oceanic crust the chemical fluxes from ridge hydrothermal systems into the oceans may be smaller than currently thought.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2006 AREP 2006 P IA52
Divisions: 01 - Climate Change and Earth-Ocean Atmosphere Systems
Journal or Publication Title: American Journal of Science
Volume: 306
Page Range: pp. 389-427
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2009 13:02
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:06

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