Detection of active hydrothermal vent fields in the Pescadero Basin and on the Alarcon Rise using AUV multibeam and CTD data
Abstract:The MBARI AUV D. Allan B. collected high resolution bathymetry, sidescan, and subbottom profiles along the neovolcanic zone of the Alarcon Rise and across the southern Pescadero Basin during 2012 and 2015 MBARI expeditions to the Gulf of California (GOC). The combination of high resolution multibeam bathymetry and seawater temperature data has proven effective in identifying active high temperature vent fields, as validated by inspection and sampling during ROV dives.
The AUV carries a 200 kHz multibeam sonar, 110 kHz chirp sidescan sonar, a 1-6 kHz chirp subbottom profiler, and a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) sensor for ~17-hour duration missions. Flying at 5.4 km/hr at 50 m altitude, the processed AUV bathymetry has a 0.1 m vertical precision and a 1 m lateral resolution. Chimneys taller than 1.5 m are sufficiently distinctive to allow provisional identification. The CTD temperature data have a nominal 0.002°C accuracy. Following calculation of potential temperature and correcting for average local variation of potential temperature with depth, anomalies greater than 0.05 °C can be reliably identified using a spike detection filter. MBARI AUV mapping surveys are typically planned using a 150 m survey line spacing, so the CTD data may be collected as much as 75 m away from any vent plume source.
Five active high temperature vent fields were discovered in the southern GOC, with the Auka Field in the southern Pescadero Basin, and the Ja Sít, Pericú, Meyibó, and Tzab-ek Fields along the Alarcon Rise. In all five cases, hydrothermal vent chimneys are readily identifiable in the multibeam bathymetry, and temperature anomalies are observed above background variability. Other apparent hydrothermal chimneys were observed in the bathmetry that did not exhibit water temperature anomalies; most of these were visited during ROV dives and confirmed to be inactive sites. The maximum water column anomalies are 0.13°C observed above the Meyibó field and 0.25°C at the Auka vents. Although chimney mapping was frequently incomplete (e.g. chimneys insonified only from one side), chimney heights observed during ROV dives generally agreed well with the multibeam bathymetry. For example, the tallest chimney at the Tzab-ek field was mapped as 31 m high, and then observed by ROV to be 33 m high.