A new Fe/Mn geothermometer for hydrothermal systems: Implications for high-salinity fluids at 13°N on the East Pacific Rise

Nicholas J. Pester, Mikaella Rough, Kang Ding, William E. Seyfried

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Field and experimental investigations demonstrate the chemistry of mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent fluids reflects fluid-mineral reaction at higher temperatures than those typically measured at the seafloor. To account for this and, in turn, be able to better constrain sub-seafloor hydrothermal processes, we have developed an empirical geothermometer based on the dissolved Fe/Mn ratio in high-temperature fluids. Using data from basalt alteration experiments, the relationship; T (°C)=331.24+112.41*log[Fe/Mn] has been calibrated between 350 and 450°C. The apparent Fe-Mn equilibrium demonstrated by the experimental data is in good agreement with natural vent fluids, suggesting broad applicability. When used in conjunction with constraints imposed by quartz solubility, associated sub-seafloor pressures can be estimated for basalt-hosted systems. As an example, this methodology is used to interpret new data from 13°N on the East Pacific Rise, where high-temperature fluids both enriched and depleted in chloride (339-646mmol/kg), relative to seawater, are actively venting within a close proximity. Accounting for these variable salinities, active phase separation is clearly taking place at 13°N, yet the fluid Fe/Mn ratios and the silica concentrations suggest equilibration at temperatures less than those coinciding with the two-phase region. These data show the chloride-enriched fluid reflects the highest temperature and pressure (∼432°C, 400bars) of equilibration, consistent with circulation near the top of the inferred magma chamber. This is in agreement with the elevated CO2 concentration relative to the chloride-depleted fluids. The noted temperature derived from the Fe/Mn geothermometer is higher than the critical temperature for a fluid of equivalent salinity. This carries the important implication that, despite being chloride-enriched relative to seawater, these fluids evolved as the vapor component of even higher salinity brine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7881-7892
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2011

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