Generation of hydrothermal megaplumes by cooling of pillow basalts at mid-ocean ridges

Abstract

Hydrothermal megaplumes are huge volumes of anomalously warm water that are located up to 1,000 metres above the sea floor and appear to be generated at mid-ocean ridges. Since their discovery in 1986, there has been considerable debate concerning their origin. A theoretical model is used to argue that the cooling of pillow basalts, which are erupted at 1,200 °C into sea water and are the most common form of submarine volcanic activity, is responsible for the megaplume formation.

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Figure 1: Cartoon illustrating assumptions used in model calculations.
Figure 2

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Sparks, R. James and A. Woods at Bristol for their help and advice, and K. Speer and B. Boubnov for comments on the manuscript. Hydrothermal research at Bristol is supported by NERC grants from the BRIDGE programme. G.G.J.E. also thanks the ‘Foundation Belge de la Vocation’ for previous support.

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Correspondence to M. R. Palmer.

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Palmer, M., Ernst, G. Generation of hydrothermal megaplumes by cooling of pillow basalts at mid-ocean ridges. Nature 393, 643–647 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1038/31397

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