Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A 'hydrothermal siphon' drives water circulation through the seafloor

29.06.2015

New study explains previous observations of ocean water flowing through the seafloor from one seamount to another

Vast quantities of ocean water circulate through the seafloor, flowing through the volcanic rock of the upper oceanic crust. A new study by scientists at UC Santa Cruz, published June 26 in Nature Communications, explains what drives this global process and how the flow is sustained.


Studies by Andrew Fisher and colleagues have shown that seamounts provide conduits through which enormous quantities of water flow between the ocean and the rocks beneath the seafloor.

Courtesy of Nicolle Rager

About 25 percent of the heat that flows out of the Earth's interior is transferred to the oceans through this process, according to Andrew Fisher, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz and coauthor of the study. Much of the fluid flow and heat transfer occurs through thousands of extinct underwater volcanoes (called seamounts) and other locations where porous volcanic rock is exposed at the seafloor.

Fisher led an international team of scientists that in the early 2000s discovered the first field site where this process could be tracked from fluid inflow to outflow, in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. In a 2003 paper published in Nature, Fisher and others reported that bottom seawater entered into one seamount, traveled horizontally through the crust, gaining heat and reacting with crustal rocks, then discharged into the ocean through another seamount more than 50 kilometers away.

'Ever since we discovered a place where these processes occur, we have been trying to understand what drives the fluid flow, what it looks like, and what determines the flow direction,' Fisher said.

For the new study, first author Dustin Winslow, a UCSC Ph.D. candidate who graduated this month, developed the first three-dimensional computer models showing how the process works. The models reveal a 'hydrothermal siphon' driven by heat loss from deep in the Earth and the flow of cold seawater down into the crust and of warmed water up out of the crust.

'Dustin's models provide the best, most realistic view of these systems to date, opening a window into a hidden realm of water, rock, and life,' Fisher said.

The models show that water tends to enter the crust ('recharge') through seamounts where fluid flow is easiest due to favorable rock properties and larger seamount size. Water tends to discharge where fluid flow is more difficult due to less favorable rock properties or smaller seamount size. This finding is consistent with field observations suggesting that smaller seamounts are favored as sites of hydrothermal discharge.

'This modeling result was surprising initially, and we had to run many simulations to convince ourselves that it made sense,' Winslow said. 'We also found that models set up to flow in the opposite direction would spontaneously flip so that discharge occurred through less transmissive seamounts. This seems to be fundamental to explaining how these systems are sustained.'

Winslow's project was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation through a graduate fellowship and as part of the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI). UCSC is a partner in C-DEBI, which is headquartered at the University of Southern California.

Media Contact

Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-4352

 @ucsc

http://www.ucsc.edu 

Tim Stephens | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica
05.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's AIM observes early noctilucent ice clouds over Antarctica

05.12.2016 | Earth Sciences

Shape matters when light meets atom

05.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”

05.12.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>