Percolation Theory, Thermoelasticity, and Discrete Hydrothermal Venting in the Earth's Crust

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  20 Mar 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5051, pp. 1564-1567
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5051.1564


As hydrothermal fluid ascends through a network of cracks into cooler crust, heat is transferred from the fluid to the adjacent rock. The thermal stresses caused by this heating close cracks that are more or less vertical. This heating may affect network connections and destroy the permeable crack network. Thermoelastic stresses caused by a temperature difference of ∼1000°C can decrease the interconnectivity of a crack network to the percolation threshold. If the temperature is slightly less, thermoelastic stresses may focus the discharge in hydrothermal systems into discrete vents.