Do Two Deep Drill Holes Into the Upper Ocean Crust Quantify the Hydrothermal Contribution to Global Geochemical Cycles?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 1:55 PM
Damon A H Teagle1, Jeffrey Alt2, Rosalind Mary Coggon3, Michelle Harris1, Christopher E Smith-Duque4 and Mark Rehkamper5, (1)University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14, United Kingdom, (2)University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, (3)University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, (4)Universtiy of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, (5)Imperial College, London, United Kingdom
Vigorous circulation of seawater at the ocean ridges is required to cool and crystallize magma to form new ocean crust. Axial and ridge flank hydrothermal fluid circulation is accompanied by seawater-basalt exchanges over a spectrum of temperatures that buffer the chemistry of seawater, provide unique microbial niches, alter the chemistry and mineralogy of the ocean crust, and through subduction return surface-derived geochemical tracers to the interior of our planet. In many models of axial and ridge flank hydrothermal circulation, most fluid-rock interaction occurs in the upper oceanic crust. Hence inventories of seawater exchange should be captured by relatively shallow (<2 km) boreholes. However, after 45+ years of ocean drilling we have just two deep drill holes that sample the lava and dike layers of intact upper oceanic crust. DSDP Hole 504B on 6.9 Ma ocean crust produced at the intermediate spreading rate Costa Rica Rift penetrates 1836 m into basement through a complete sequence of lavas to near the base of the sheeted dike complex. In isolation, Hole 504B became the ‘reference section’ for upper oceanic crust from which hydrothermal contributions to global geochemical cycles were determined. The recent drilling of Hole 1256D in 15 Ma superfast spreading rate Pacific crust penetrated through the complete volcanic and sheeted dike layers into the underlying gabbroic rocks in intact ocean crust for the first time. These boreholes are complemented by observations from seafloor tectonic windows, fracture zones, and ophiolites, but these are imperfect analogs.

Although Holes 504B and 1256D formed at different spreading rates, crust from both sites is expected to conform to textbook Penrose-type layering, albeit with different thicknesses of lavas and dikes. However, what was not anticipated was the contrasting distribution and nature of elemental and isotopic hydrothermal exchanges. Differences reflect the influence of local crustal structure, such as lava morphology and flow thicknesses, and thermal gradients on hydrothermal processes. These contrasts highlight the importance of further deep drilling to at least the upper gabbros in a range of spreading rates and ages to robustly extrapolate the results from what will always be a limited number of bore holes to quantify global hydrothermal exchanges.