Particle dynamics in the rising plume at Piccard Hydrothermal Field, Mid-Cayman Rise

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Hydrothermal particulate iron fluxes
Particle size distribution
Particle inherent optical properties
In situ optical sensors
Mid-Cayman Rise
Piccard Hydrothermal Field
Processes active in rising hydrothermal plumes, such as precipitation, particle aggregation, and biological growth, affect particle size distributions and can exert important influences on the biogeochemical impact of submarine venting of iron to the oceans and their sediments. However, observations to date of particle size distribution within these systems are both limited and conflicting. In a novel buoyant hydrothermal plume study at the recently discovered high-temperature (398°C) Piccard Hydrothermal Field, Mid-Cayman Rise, we report optical measurements of particle size distributions (PSDs). We describe the plume PSD in terms of a simple, power-law model commonly used in studies of upper and coastal ocean particle dynamics. Observed PSD slopes, derived from spectral beam attenuation and laser diffraction measurements, are among the highest found to date anywhere in the ocean and ranged from 2.9 to 8.5. Beam attenuation at 650 nm ranged from near zero to a rarely observed maximum of 192 m−1 at 3.5 m above the vent. We did not find large (>100 μm) particles that would settle rapidly to the sediments. Instead, beam attenuation was well-correlated to total iron, suggesting the first-order importance of particle dilution, rather than precipitation or dissolution, in the rising plume at Piccard. Our observations at Piccard caution against the assumption of rapid deposition of hydrothermal, particulate metal fluxes, and illustrate the need for more particle size and composition measurements across a broader range of sites, globally.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2015. 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 16 (2015): 2762–2774, doi:10.1002/2015GC005831.
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Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 16 (2015): 2762–2774
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