Abstract

Hydrothermal circulation at mid-ocean ridge volcanic segments extracts heat from crustal magma bodies. However, the heat source driving hydrothermal circulation in ultramafic outcrops, where mantle rocks are exhumed in low-magma-supply environments, has remained enigmatic. Here we use a three-dimensional P-wave velocity model derived from active-source wide-angle refraction-reflection ocean bottom seismometer data and pre-stack depth-migrated images derived from multichannel seismic reflection data to investigate the internal structure of the Rainbow ultramafic massif, which is located in a non-transform discontinuity of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Seismic imaging reveals that the ultramafic rocks composing the Rainbow massif have been intruded by a large number of magmatic sills, distributed throughout the massif at depths of ∼2–10 km. These sills, which appear to be at varying stages of crystallization, can supply the heat needed to drive high-temperature hydrothermal circulation, and thus provide an explanation for the hydrothermal discharge observed in this ultramafic setting. Our results demonstrate that high-temperature hydrothermal systems can be driven by heat from deep-sourced magma even in exhumed ultramafic lithosphere with very low magma supply.

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