Seawater Circulation and Thermal Sink at OCEAN Ridges – FIELD Evidence in Oman Ophiolite

Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:15 AM
Adolphe A Nicolas1, Francoise I Boudier1, Lawrence M Cathles2, W Roger Buck3 and Bernard P Celerier1, (1)University of Montpellier II, Montpellier Cedex 05, France, (2)Cornell Univ, Ithaca, NY, United States, (3)Columbia University of New York, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory - LDEO, Palisades, NY, United States
Exceptionally, the lowermost gabbros in the Oman ophiolite are black and totally fresh, except for minute traces of impregnation by seawater fluids at very high temperature (~1000°C). These black gabbros sharply contrast with normal, whitish gabbros altered down to Low-T~500-350°C. These hydrous alterations are ascribed to an unconventional model of seawater circulation and cooling of the permanent magma chambers of fast spreading ocean ridges. In this model, gabbros issued from the magma chamber cross a ~100 m thick thermal boundary layer (TBL) before reaching a narrow, Low-T high permeability channel where the heated return seawater is flowing towards black smokers and the local gabbros are altered. Uprising mantle diapirs in Oman diverge at ~5 km on each side of the palaeo-ridge axis and feed an overlying magma chamber that closes at this distance from axis. Preservation of black gabbros along the Moho implies that the loop of seawater alteration locally does not reach Moho beyond this ~5km distance (otherwise black gabbros would be altered in whitish gabbros). This defines an internal “thermal sink” within ~5 km to the ridge axis. There, the sink is efficiently cooled by the active hydrothermal convection that is ridge transverse. This has been documented near the Galapagos ridge by marine geophysical data, within the same distance. Beyond this critical distance, the cooling system becomes dominantly conductive and ridge-parallel. The TBL and attached return flow channels must be rising into the overcooled, accreted crust. Beyond the thermal sink, the 500°C isotherm rebounds into the crust. It is only after ~ 1My of crustal drift that this isotherm penetrates into the uppermost mantle in a sustained fashion, developing serpentinites at the expense of peridotites.