Discovering hydrothermalism from afar: in situ methane instrumentation and change-point detection for decision-making

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Date
2022-10-06
Authors
Michel, Anna P. M.
Wankel, Scott D.
Preston, Victoria Lynn
Flaspohler, Genevieve Elaine
Kapit, Jason
Pardis, William A.
Youngs, Sarah
Martocello, Donald E.
Girguis, Peter R.
Roy, Nicholas
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Location
Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California
DOI
10.26025/1912/29403
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Keywords
Methane
In situ instrumentation
Hydrothermalism
Deep sea exploration
Eater mass classification
Science-informed models
AUV SENTRY
Decision-making infrastructure
Abstract
Seafloor hydrothermalism plays a critical role in fundamental interactions between geochemical and biological processes in the deep ocean. A significant number of hydrothermal vents are hypothesized to exist, but many of these remain undiscovered due in part to the difficulty of detecting hydrothermalism using standard sensors on rosettes towed in the water column or robotic platforms performing surveys. Here, we use in situ methane sensors to complement standard sensing technology for hydrothermalism discovery and compare sensing equipment on a towed rosette and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) during a 17 km long transect in the Northern Guaymas Basin. This transect spatially intersected with a known hydrothermally active venting site. These data show that methane signaled possible hydrothermal activity 1.5-3 km laterally (100-150m vertically) from a known vent. Methane as a signal for hydrothermalism performed similarly to standard turbidity sensors (plume detection 2.2-3.3 km from reference source), and more sensitively and clearly than temperature, salinity, and oxygen instruments which readily respond to physical mixing in background seawater. We additionally introduce change-point detection algorithms---streaming cross-correlation and regime identification---as a means of real-time hydrothermalism discovery and discuss related data monitoring technologies that could be used in planning, executing, and monitoring explorative surveys for hydrothermalism.
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