Abstract

Conductive heat flow anomalies associated with hydrothermal sulfide mounds on the seafloor have been studied. Sulfide mounds tend to focus conductive heat flow because sulfide minerals have a greater thermal conductivity than country rock. The topography of the mound above the seafloor, however, leads to a reduction of heat flow, particularly near the center of the mound. Because the focusing effect is constant, whereas the topographic effect decreases with distance away from the center, the focusing effect dominates toward the edges of the mound. The magnitude of these effects depends upon the conductivity contrast and the height/radius aspect ratio of the mound. Conductive heat flow anomalies at sulfide mounds also result from fluid circulation within the edifice. For the active and relict mounds at the TAG hydrothermal field, which have an aspect ratio of approximately 0.3 and a conductivity contrast of 3, the heat flux through the center of the mound should be roughly 70% of the background heat flux. The maximum effect of heat flow focusing is to increase the heat flux by about 30% above background. By comparing these effects with conductive heat flow data at TAG, we find that advective processes dominate conductive heat flow at both the active and relict mounds. Advective circulation can also give rise to much larger lateral and vertical temperature gradients than would result from conduction alone.

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