National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1994

Geochemistry of north Cleft segment vent fluids: Temporal changes in chlorinity and their possible relation to recent volcanism

Butterfield, D.A., and G.J. Massoth

J. Geophys. Res., 99(B3), 4951–4968, doi: 10.1029/93JB02798 (1994)

Hydrothermal vent fluids from the North Cleft segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge between 44°54 and 45°00 N were sampled in 1988, 1990, 1991, and 1992. In 1988, chloride-depleted (relative to seawater) diffuse fluids with low dissolved metal concentrations (relative to other mid-ocean ridge (MOR) fluids) were sampled over a distance of ~10 km along axis. In 1990 and 1991, both high-temperature (>200°C) and diffuse vents were consistently metal- and chloride-enriched. The end-member compositions of high-temperature vents and nearby diffuse vents were very similar. There were small but significant correlated changes in diffuse and high-temperature composition from 1990 to 1991. The large-scale but temporary venting of low-chlorinity fluids over the entire North Cleft segment provides a resolution to the apparent mass imbalance implied by observations of continuous venting of chloride-enriched fluids. It is possible that a volcanic event along the North Cleft segment prior to 1987, for which there is firm geologic evidence, initially caused a boiling event which resulted in the preferential venting of vapor-enriched fluids through 1988, followed by a transition to brine-enriched fluids by 1990. High iron, low sodium, and low Sr/Ca ratios in the high-chlorinity fluids suggest that the brine phase has continued to react and approach reequilibration with an alteration mineral assemblage after the phase separation event. The absence of chloride-depleted fluids from 1990 onward, and the systematics of lithium, boron, and manganese with chloride in the high-temperature fluids from North Cleft suggest that the evolution toward lower chlorinity at Monolith vent from 1990 to 1992 is caused by progressive dilution of a brine with hydrothermal seawater.

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