Geothermal System at 21°N, East Pacific Rise: Physical Limits on Geothermal Fluid and Role of Adiabatic Expansion

Science  28 Mar 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4438, pp. 1465-1469
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4438.1465


Pressure-volume-temperature relations for water at the depth of the magma chamber at 21°N on the East Pacific Rise suggest that the maximum subsurface temperature of the geothermal fluid is about 420°C. Both the chemistry of the discharging fluid and thermal balance considerations indicate that the effective water/rock ratios in the geothermal system are between 7 and 16. Such low ratios preclude effective metal transport at temperatures below 350°C, but metal solubilization at 400°C and above is effective even at such low ratios. It is proposed that the 420°C fluid ascends essentially adiabatically and in the process expands, cools, and precipitates metal sulfides within the upper few hundred meters of the sea floor and on the sea floor itself.