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The remarkable longevity of submarine plumes: Implications for the hydrothermal input of iron to the deep-ocean

Abstract : The longevity of submarine plumes generated at sea-floor hydrothermal systems constrains the hydrothermal input of chemical species into the deep-ocean. Decades of observations of episodic “event plumes” suggest that a key process governing the dynamics of an hydrothermal cloud spreading out laterally from a buoyant rising plume is the production of internal layering. Here, we use analog experiments on turbulent, hot particle-laden plumes and clouds to show that this layering occurs where particle diffusive convection driven by the differential diffusion of heat and small mineral precipitates gives rise to a large scale double diffusive instability. Where hydrothermal clouds are enriched in fine minerals, this “particle diffusive convection” can extend the longevity of an event plume to 2 yr after its emplacement. The very long residence time imposed by diffusive convective effects enables complete dissolution of fine sulfide and sulfate minerals. We develop a new theoretical model that includes both sedimentation and dissolution processes to quantify the potential amount of iron produced by the dissolution of iron-sulfide minerals settling through the cloud by diffusive convection. A key prediction is that the concentration of dissolved iron in hydrothermal clouds can reach up to 19±3 nM, which represents about 5% of the global hydrothermal discharge. If these results are representative of all hydrothermal vent fields, hydrothermal systems could provide 75% of the global budget of dissolved iron in the deep-ocean. Regionally, this flux is expected to scale in magnitude with mid-ocean ridge heat flow, consistent with observations and global ocean models.
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G. Carazzo, A. M. Jellinek, A. V. Turchyn. The remarkable longevity of submarine plumes: Implications for the hydrothermal input of iron to the deep-ocean. EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCE LETTERS, 2013, 382, pp.66-76. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2013.09.008⟩. ⟨insu-03581757⟩



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