Structure, temporal evolution, and heat flux estimates from the Lucky Strike deep-sea hydrothermal field derived from seafloor image mosaics
Escartin, Javier E.
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Here we demonstrate with a study of the Lucky Strike hydrothermal field that image mosaicing over large seafloor areas is feasible with new image processing techniques, and that repeated surveys allow temporal studies of active processes. Lucky Strike mosaics, generated from >56,000 images acquired in 1996, 2006, 2008 and 2009, reveal the distribution and types of diffuse outflow throughout the field, and their association with high-temperature vents. In detail, the zones of outflow are largely controlled by faults, and we suggest that the spatial clustering of active zones likely reflects the geometry of the underlying plumbing system. Imagery also provides constraints on temporal variability at two time-scales. First, based upon changes in individual outflow features identified in mosaics acquired in different years, we document a general decline of diffuse outflow throughout the vent field over time-scales up to 13 years. Second, the image mosaics reveal broad patches of seafloor that we interpret as fossil outflow zones, owing to their association with extinct chimneys and hydrothermal deposits. These areas encompass the entire region of present-day hydrothermal activity, suggesting that the plumbing system has persisted over long periods of time, loosely constrained to hundreds to thousands of years. The coupling of mosaic interpretation and available field measurements allow us to independently estimate the heat flux of the Lucky Strike system at ~200 to 1000 MW, with 75% to >90% of this flux taken up by diffuse hydrothermal outflow. Based on these heat flux estimates, we propose that the temporal decline of the system at short and long time scales may be explained by the progressive cooling of the AMC, without replenishment. The results at Lucky Strike demonstrate that repeated image surveys can be routinely performed to characterize and study the temporal variability of a broad range of vent sites hosting active processes (e.g., cold seeps, hydrothermal fields, gas outflows, etc.), allowing a better understanding of fluid flow dynamics from the sub-seafloor, and a quantification of fluxes.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2012. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 13 (2012): Q04007, doi:10.1029/2011GC003990.
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