Hydrothermal activity in the Northwest Lau Backarc Basin: Evidence from water column measurements Public Deposited

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  • The Northwest Lau Backarc Basin, consisting of the Northwest Lau Spreading Center (NWLSC) and the Rochambeau Rifts (RR), is unique in having elevated ³He/⁴He ratios (up to 28 R[subscript a]) in the erupted lavas, clearly indicating a hot spot or ocean island basalt (OIB)-type signature. This OIB-type helium signature does not appear in any other part of the Lau Basin. Water column plume surveys conducted in 2008 and 2010 identified several sites of active hydrothermal discharge along the NWLSC-RR and showed that the incidence of hydrothermal activity is high, consistent with the high spreading rate of ∼100 mm/year. Hydrocasts into the Central Caldera and Southern Caldera of the NWLSC detected elevated ³He/⁴He (δ³He = 55% and 100%, respectively), trace metals (TMn, TFe), and suspended particles, indicating localized hydrothermal venting at these two sites. Hydrocasts along the northern rift zone of the NWLSC also had excess δ³He, TMn, and suspended particles suggesting additional sites of hydrothermal activity. The RR are dominated by Lobster Caldera, a large volcano with four radiating rift zones. Hydrocasts into Lobster Caldera in 2008 detected high δ³He (up to 239%) and suspended particle and TMn signals, indicating active venting within the caldera. A repeat survey of Lobster in 2010 confirmed the site was still active two years later. Plumes at Lobster Caldera and Central Caldera have end-member ³He/⁴He ratios of 19 R[subscript a] and 11 R[subscript a], respectively, confirming that hot spot-type helium is also present in the hydrothermal fluids.
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  • Lupton, J. E., R. J. Arculus, J. Resing, G. J. Massoth, R. R. Greene, L. J. Evans, and N. Buck (2012), Hydrothermal activity in the Northwest Lau Backarc Basin: Evidence from water column measurements, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 13, Q0AF04, doi:10.1029/2011GC003891.
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