National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2008

High-resolution surveys along the hot spot-affected Galápagos Spreading Center: 1. Distribution of hydrothermal activity

Baker, E.T., R.M. Haymon, J.A. Resing, S.M. White, S.L. Walker, K.C. Macdonald, and K. Nakamura

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 9(9), Q09003, doi: 10.1029/2008GC002028 (2008)

The spatial density of hydrothermal activity along most mid-ocean ridges is a robust linear function of spreading rate (or magmatic budget), but extreme crustal properties may alter this relationship. In 2005– 2006 we tested the effect of thickened crust on hydrothermal activity using high-resolution mapping of plumes overlying the hot spot–affected Gala´pagos Spreading Center from 95° to 89°42'W (~560 km of ridge crest). Plume mapping discovered only two active, high-temperature vent fields, subsequently confirmed by camera tows, though strong plume evidence indicated minor venting from at least six other locations. Total plume incidence (ph), the fraction of ridge crest overlain by significant plumes, was 0.11 ± 0.014, about half that expected for a non–hot spot mid-ocean ridge with a similar magmatic budget. Plume distributions on the Galápagos Spreading Center were uncorrelated with abrupt variations in the depth of the along-axis melt lens, so these variations are apparently not controlled by hydrothermal cooling differences. We also found no statistical difference (for a significance level of 0.05) in plume incidence between where the seismically imaged melt lens is shallow (2 ± 0.56 km, ph = 0.108 ± 0.045) and where it is deep (3.4 ± 0.7 km, ph = 0.121 ± 0.015). The Gala´pagos Spreading Center thus joins mid-ocean ridges near the Iceland (Reykjanes Ridge), St. Paul-Amsterdam (South East Indian Ridge), and Ascension (Mid-Atlantic Ridge) hot spots as locations of anomalously scarce high-temperature venting. This scarcity implies that convective cooling along hot spot–affected ridge sections occurs primarily by undetected diffuse flow or is permanently or episodically reduced compared to normal mid-ocean ridges.

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