Modeling mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal response to earthquakes, tides, and ocean currents: a case study at the Grotto mound, Endeavour Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Guangyu Xu and Karen G Bemis, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
Seafloor hydrothermal systems feature intricate interconnections among oceanic, geological, hydrothermal, and biological processes. The advent of the NEPTUNE observatory operated by Ocean Networks Canada at the Endeavour Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge enables scientists to study these interconnections through multidisciplinary, continuous, real-time observations. The multidisciplinary observatory instruments deployed at the Grotto Mound, a major study site of the NEPTUNE observatory, makes it a perfect place to study the response of a seafloor hydrothermal system to geological and oceanic processes.

In this study, we use the multidisciplinary datasets recorded by the NEPTUNE Observatory instruments as observational tools to demonstrate two different aspects of the response of hydrothermal activity at the Grotto Mound to geological and oceanic processes. First, we investigate a recent increase in venting temperature and heat flux at Grotto observed by the Benthic and Resistivity Sensors (BARS) and the Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar (COVIS) respectively. This event started in Mar 2014 and is still evolving by the time of writing this abstract. An initial interpretation in light of the seismic data recorded by a neighboring ocean bottom seismometer on the NEPTUNE observatory suggests the temperature and heat flux increase is probably triggered by local seismic activities. Comparison of the observations with the results of a 1-D mathematical model simulation of hydrothermal sub-seafloor circulation elucidates the potential mechanisms underlying hydrothermal response to local earthquakes. Second, we observe significant tidal oscillations in the venting temperature time series recorded by BARS and the acoustic imaging of hydrothermal plumes by COVIS, which is evidence for hydrothermal response to ocean tides and currents. We interpret the tidal oscillations of venting temperature as a result of tidal loading on a poroelastic medium. We then invoke poroelastic theories to estimate the crustal permeability, a fundamental property of subsurface hydrothermal circulation, from the phase shift of the tidal oscillations of venting temperature relative to ambient ocean tides. These results together shed light on the influences of seismic and oceanic processes on a seafloor hydrothermal system.