Variability of low temperature hydrothermal alteration in upper ocean crust: Juan de Fuca Ridge and North Pond, Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Abstract:Over 2/3 of the global hydrothermal heat flux occurs at low temperatures (< 150°) on the ridge flanks carried by fluid volumes comparable to riverine discharge. Understanding ridge flank hydrothermal exchange is important to quantify global geochemical cycles. Hydrothermal chemical pathways are complex and the effects of water-rock reactions remain poorly constrained. Factors controlling fluid flow include volcanic structure, sediment thickness, and basement topography. This study compares the effects of low temperature alteration in two locations with contrasting hydrogeological regimes.
The intermediate spreading Juan de Fuca ridge flank (JdF) in the northeast Pacific sports a thick sediment blanket. Rare basement outcrops are sites of fluid recharge and discharge. The average alteration extent (~10% secondary minerals), oxidation ratio (Fe3+/FeTOT=34%), and alteration character (orange, green, grey halos) of basement is constant with crustal age and depth along a 0.97–3.6 m.yr transect of ODP basement holes. However, vesicle fills record an increasingly complex history of successive alteration with age.
In contrast, North Pond, a ~8 m.yr-old sediment-filled basin at 22N on the slow spreading Mid Atlantic Ridge, hosts rapid, relatively cool SE to NW basinal fluid flow. Average alteration extent (~10%) and oxidation ratio (33%) of Hole 395A basalts are similar to JdF. However, 395A cores are dominated by orange alteration halos, lack celadonite, but have abundant zeolite. Vesicle fill combinations are highly variable, but the most common fill progression is from oxidising to less oxidising secondary assemblages.
The comparable extent of alteration between these two sites and the absence of an age relationship on the JdF suggests that the alteration extent of the upper crust is uniform and mostly established by 1 Myr. However, the variable alteration character reflects the influence of regional hydrology on hydrothermal alteration.