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In situmeasurement of fluid flow from cold seeps at active continental margins

Deep Sea Research Part I Oceanographic Research Papers
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0967-0637(94)90051-5
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Musicology
  • Physics


Abstract In situ measurement of fluid flow rates from active margins is an important parameter in evaluating dissolved mass fluxes and global geochemical balances as well as tectonic dewatering during developments of accretionary prisms. We have constructed and deployed various devices that allow for the direct measurement of this parameter. An open bottom barrel with an exhaust port at the top and equipped with a mechanical flowmeter was initially used to measure flow rates in the Cascadia accretionary margin during an Alvin dive program in 1988. Sequentially activated water bottles inside the barrel sampled the increase of venting methane in the enclosed body of water. Subsequently, a thermistor flowmeter was developed to measure flow velocities from cold seeps. It can be used to measure velocities between 0.01 and 50 cm s −1, with a response time of 200 ms. It was deployed again by the submersible Alvin in visits to the Cascadia margin seeps (1990) and in conjunction with sequentially activated water bottles inside the barrel. We report the values for the flow rates based on the thermistor flowmeter and estimated from methane flux calculations. These results are then compared with the first measurement at Cascadia margin employing the mechanical flowmeter. The similarity between water flow and methane expulsion rates over more than one order of magnitude at these sites suggests that the mass fluxes obtained by our in situ devices may be reasonably realistic values for accretionary margins. These values also indicate an enormous variability in the rates of fluid expulsion within the same accretionary prism. Finally, during a cruise to the active margin off Peru, another version of the same instrument was deployed via a TV-controlled frame within an acoustic transponder net from a surface ship, the R.V. Sonne. The venting rates obtained with the thermistor flowmeter used in this configuration yielded a value of 4411 m −2 day −1 at an active seep on the Peru slope. The ability for deployment of deep-sea instruments capable of measuring fluid flow rates and dissolved mass fluxes from conventional research vessels will allow easier access to these seep sites and a more widespread collection of the data needed to evaluate geochemical processes resulting from venting at cold seeps on a global basis. Comparison of the in situ flow rates from steady-state compactive dewatering models differ by more than 4 orders of magnitude. This implies that only a small area of the margin is venting and that there must be recharge zones associated with venting at convergent margins.

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