Seismic Reflection Imaging of the Heat Source of an Ultramafic-Hosted Hydrothermal System (Rainbow, Mid-Atlantic Ridge 36° 10-17’N)
Abstract:Most of our understanding of hydrothermal systems and the nature of their heat sources comes from models and observations at fast and intermediate spreading ridges. In these settings, hydrothermal systems are mainly located within the axial zone of a spreading segment, hosted in basaltic rock, and primarily driven by heat extracted from crystallization of crustal melt sills. In contrast, hydrothermal systems at slow-spreading ridges like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) show a great variety of venting styles and host-rock lithology, and are located in diverse tectonic settings like axial volcanic ridges, non-transform discontinuities (NTDs), the foot of ridge valley walls, and off-axis inside corner highs. Among MAR systems, the Rainbow hydrothermal field (RHF) stands out as an end-member of this diversity: an ultramafic-hosted system emitting H2 and CH4-rich fluids at high temperatures and high flow rates, which suggests a magmatic heat source despite the lack of evidence for recent volcanism and its location within an NTD with presumably low magma budget.
We present 2D multichannel seismic reflection images across the Rainbow massif from the NSF-funded MARINER multidisciplinary geophysical study that reveal, for the first time, the magmatic system driving hydrothermal circulation in an ultramafic setting. Data were acquired in 2013 onboard the RV M. Langseth with an 8-km-long hydrophone streamer. The images have been obtained from pre-stack depth migrations using a regional 3D P-wave velocity model from a coincident controlled-source seismic tomography experiment using ocean bottom seismometers. Our images show a complex magmatic system centered beneath the RHF occupying an areal extent of ~3.7x6 km2, with partially molten sills ranging in depth between ~3.4 km and ~6.9 km below the seafloor. Our data also image high-amplitude dipping reflections within the massif coincident with strong lateral velocity gradients that may arise from detachment fault planes, lithological contacts, and/or alteration boundaries. Our results are an important step towards understanding the interactions of detachment faulting, magmatic intrusion, and hydrothermal circulation.