Feedbacks between mantle hydration and hydrothermal convection at ocean spreading centers.

Iyer, Karthik , Rüpke, Lars and Phipps Morgan, Jason (2010) Feedbacks between mantle hydration and hydrothermal convection at ocean spreading centers. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 296 (1/2). pp. 34-44. DOI 10.1016/j.epsl.2010.04.037.

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Hydration of the oceanic lithosphere is an important and ubiquitous process which alters both the chemical and physical properties of the affected lithologies. One of the most important reactions that affect the mantle is serpentinization. The process of serpentinization results in a drastic decrease in the density (up to 40%), seismic velocity and brittle strength as well as water uptake of up to 13 wt.% of the ultramafic rock. In this paper, we use numerical models to study the amount and extent of serpentinization that may occur at mid-ocean ridges and its effects on fluid flow within the lithosphere. The two dimensional, FEM model solves three coupled, time-dependent equations: (i) mass-conserving Darcy flow equation, (ii) energy conserving heat transport equation and (iii) serpentinization rate of olivine with feedbacks to temperature (exothermic reaction), fluid consumption and variations in porosity and permeability (volume changes). The thermal structure of the ridge is strongly influenced by rock permeability in addition to the spreading velocity of the ridge. Increased rock permeability enhances hydrothermal convection and results in efficient heat mining from the lithosphere whereas higher spreading velocities result in a higher thermal gradient. Serpentinization of the oceanic mantle, in turn, depends on the aforementioned, competing processes. However, serpentinization of mantle rocks is itself likely to result in strong variations of rock porosity and permeability. Here we explore the coupled feedbacks. Increasing rates of serpentinization lead to large volume changes and therefore, rock fracturing thereby increasing rock porosity/permeability while as serpentinization reaches completion, the open pore space in the rock is reduced due to the relative dominance of mineral precipitation. Although, variations in the relation between porosity and permeability and serpentinization before the reaction reaches completion do not significantly affect the degree of serpentinization, we find that unreasonably large portions of the mantle would be serpentinized if rock closure does not occur at the final reaction stage. The amount of water trapped as hydrous phases within the mantle shows a strong dependency on the spreading velocity of the ridge with water content ranging from 0.18 × 105 kg/m2 to 2.52 × 105 kg/m2. Additionally, two distinct trends are observed where the water content in the mantle at slow-spreading ridges drops dramatically with an increase in spreading velocity. The amount of water trapped in the mantle at fast-spreading ridges, on the other hand, is lower and does not significantly depend on spreading velocity.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Hydrology; mid-ocean ridge; serpentinization; water budget; numerical model; hydrothermal convection
Research affiliation: OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-JRG-B3 Seabed Resources
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
Publisher: Elsevier
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2010 08:29
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 22:52

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