Seafloor hydrothermal systems are known to respond to seismic and magmatic activity along mid-ocean ridges, often resulting in locally positive changes in hydrothermal discharge rate, temperature and microbial activity, and shifts in composition occurring at the time of earthquake swarms and axial crustal dike injections1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Corresponding regional effects have also been observed11. Here we present observations of a hydrological response to seafloor spreading activity, which resulted in a negative formation-fluid pressure transient during and after an earthquake swarm in the sediment-sealed igneous crust of the Middle Valley rift of the northernmost Juan de Fuca ridge. The observations were made with a borehole seal and hydrologic observatory originally established in 1991 to study the steady-state pressure and temperature conditions in this hydrothermally active area12,13. The magnitude of the co-seismic response is consistent with the elastic strain that would be expected from the associated earthquakes, but the prolonged negative pressure transient after the swarm is surprising and suggests net co-seismic dilatation of the upper, permeable igneous crust. The rift valley was visited four weeks after the onset of the seismic activity, but no signature of increased hydrothermal activity was detected in the water column. It appears that water, not magma, filled the void left by this spreading episode.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Baker, E. T. et al. Hydrothermal event plumes from the CoAxial seafloor eruption site, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 151–154 (1995)
Embley, R. W., Chadwick, W. W., Jonasson, I. R., Butterfield, D. A. & Baker, E. T. Initial results of the rapid response to the 1993 CoAxial event: Relationships between hydrothermal and volcanic processes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 143–146 (1995)
Von Damm, K. L. et al. Evolution of East Pacific Rise hydrothermal vent fluids following a volcanic eruption. Nature 395, 47–50 (1995)
Dziak, R. P., Fox, C. G. & Schreiner, A. E. The June-July 1993 seismoacoustic event at CoAxial Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Evidence for a lateral dike injection. Geophys. Res. Lett. 22, 135–138 (1995)
Sohn, R. A., Fornari, D. J., Von Damm, K. L., Hildebrand, J. A. & Webb, S. C. Seismic and hydrothermal evidence of a cracking event on the East Pacific Rise crest near 9° 50′ N. Nature 396, 159–161 (1998)
Delaney, J. R. et al. The quantum event of ocean crustal accretion: Impacts of diking at mid-ocean ridges. Science 281, 222–230 (1998)
Dziak, R. P. & Fox, C. G. The January 1998 earthquake swarm at Axial Volcano, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Hydroacoustic evidence of seafloor volcanic activity. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 3429–3432 (1999)
Lupton, J. E., Baker, E. T. & Massoth, G. J. Helium, heat, and the generation of hydrothermal event plumes at mid-ocean ridges. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 171, 343–350 (1999)
Johnson, H. P. et al. Earthquake-induced changes in a hydrothermal system at the Endeavour Segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge. Nature 407, 174–177 (2000)
Lilley, M. D., Butterfield, D. A., Lupton, J. E. & Olson, E. J. Magmatic events can produce rapid changes in hydrothermal vent chemistry. Nature 422, 878–881 (2003)
Davis, E. E., Wang, K., Thomson, R. E., Becker, K. & Cassidy, J. F. An episode of seafloor spreading and associated plate deformation inferred from crustal fluid pressure transients. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 21953–21963 (2001)
Davis, E. E., Becker, K., Pettigrew, T., Carson, B. & Macdonald, R. CORK: A hydrologic seal and downhole observatory for deep-ocean boreholes. Proc. ODP Init. Rep. 139, 43–53 (1992)
Davis, E. E. & Becker, K. Formation temperatures and pressures in a sedimented rift hydrothermal system: Ten months of CORK observations, Holes 857D and 858G. Proc. ODP Sci. Res. 139, 649–666 (1994)
Jonsson, S., Segall, P., Pedersen, R. & Bjornsson, G. Post-earthquake ground movements correlated to pore-pressure transients. Nature 424, 179–183 (2003)
Okada, Y. Internal deformation due to shear and tensile faults in a half space. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 82, 1018–1040 (1992)
Cooper, H. H. Jr, Bredehoeft, J. D. & Papadopulos, I. S. Response of a finite diameter well to an instantaneous charge of water. Wat. Resour. Res. 3, 263–269 (1967)
Becker, K., Morin, R. H. & Davis, E. E. Permeabilities in the Middle Valley hydrothermal system measured with packer and flowmeter experiments. Proc. ODP. Sci. Res. 139, 613–626 (1994)
Bessler, J. U., Smith, L. & Davis, E. E. Hydrologic and thermal conditions at a sediment/basalt interface: Implications for interpretation of field measurements at Middle Valley. Proc. ODP Sci. Res. 139, 667–678 (1994)
Davis, E. E. & Villinger, H. Tectonic and thermal structure of the Middle Valley sedimented rift, northern Juan de Fuca Ridge. Proc. ODP Init. Rep. 139, 9–41 (1992)
Golden, C. E., Webb, S. C. & Sohn, R. A. Hydrothermal microearthquake swarms beneath active vents at Middle Valley, northern Juan de Fuca Ridge. J. Geophys. Res. 108, doi:10.1029/2001JB000226 (2003)
Wang, K. Applying fundamental principles and mathematical models to understand processes and estimate parameters. In Hydrogeology of the Oceanic Lithosphere (eds Davis, E. E. & Elderfield, H.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, in the press)
Fox, C. G., Dziak, R. P., Marumoto, H. & Schreiner, A. E. Potential for monitoring low-level seismicity on the Juan de Fuca Ridge using military hydrophone arrays. Mar. Technol. Soc. J. 27, 22–30 (1994)
We acknowledge the Ocean Drilling Program for ongoing support for long-term borehole monitoring experiments, T. Pettigrew, R. Meldrum, and R. Macdonald for engineering assistance, R. Thomson and S. Mihaley for assistance with the post-swarm water-column survey on board CHS Tully, M. Fowler for assistance with SoSUS data processing, and J. Risteau for earthquake moment tensor calculations. Financial support was provided by the US National Science Foundation and by the Geological Survey of Canada.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
About this article
Experimental evidence characterizing pressure fluctuations at the seafloor-water interface induced by an earthquake
Scientific Reports (2018)
The role of hydrothermal cooling of the oceanic lithosphere for ocean floor bathymetry and heat flow
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (2017)
Long-term in situ observations at the Athina mud volcano, Eastern Mediterranean: Taking the pulse of mud volcanism
In situobservations of earthquake-driven fluid pulses within the Japan Trench plate boundary fault zone
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences (2014)