The response of two-phase hydrothermal systems to changing magmatic heat input at mid-ocean ridges


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Virginia Tech


Hydrothermal processes at oceanic spreading centers are largely influenced by changing magmatic heat input. I use the FISHES code to investigate the evolution of surface temperature and salinity as a function of time-varying heat flux at the base of a two-phase, vapor-brine hydrothermal system. I consider a two-dimensional rectangular box that is 1.5 km deep and 4 km long with homogeneous permeability. Impermeable, insulated conditions are imposed on the left and right hand boundaries. To simulate time-varying heat flux from a sub-axial magma chamber of 500 m long half-width, I consider a variety of basal boundary conditions: (1) a constant heat flux with an value of 130 W/m2; (2) a sinusoidal heat flux with a period of 6 years and an amplitude ranging between 100 and 50 W/m2; (3) step, random, and exponential heat fluxes ranging between 200 and 15 W/m2; and (4) an analytical function of temporally decaying heat flux resulting from a simulated cooling, crystallizing magmatic sill. As a result of the investigation I find: (1) changes in bottom temperature and salinity closely follow the temporal variations in magmatic heat inputs; (2) the surface temperature response is severely damped and high frequency variations in heat flow are not detected; (3) in regions where phase separation of vapor and brine occurs, surface salinity variations may be recorded in response to changing conditions at depth, but these are smaller in amplitude.



hydrothermal system, two-phase flow, mid-ocean ridges, magmatic heat