Magnetic imaging of subseafloor hydrothermal fluid circulation pathways

Sci Adv. 2020 Oct 30;6(44):eabc6844. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6844. Print 2020 Oct.


Hydrothermal fluid circulation beneath the seafloor is an important process for chemical and heat transfer between the solid Earth and overlying oceans. Discharge of hydrothermal fluids at the seafloor supports unique biological communities and can produce potentially valuable mineral deposits. Our understanding of the scale and geometry of subseafloor hydrothermal circulation has been limited to numerical simulations and their manifestations on the seafloor. Here, we use magnetic inverse modeling to generate the first three-dimensional empirical model of a hydrothermal convection system. High-temperature fluid-rock reactions associated with fluid circulation destroy magnetic minerals in the Earth's crust, thus allowing magnetic models to trace the fluid's pathways through the seafloor. We present an application of this modeling at a hydrothermally active region of the East Manus Basin.