School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

Document Type


Publication Date



Processes active in rising hydrothermal plumes, such as precipitation, particle aggregation, and biological growth, affect particle size distributions and can exert important influences on the biogeochemical impact of submarine venting of iron to the oceans and their sediments. However, observations to date of particle size distribution within these systems are both limited and conflicting. In a novel buoyant hydrothermal plume study at the recently discovered high-temperature (3988C) Piccard Hydrothermal Field, Mid- Cayman Rise, we report optical measurements of particle size distributions (PSDs). We describe the plume PSD in terms of a simple, power-law model commonly used in studies of upper and coastal ocean particle dynamics. Observed PSD slopes, derived from spectral beam attenuation and laser diffraction measurements, are among the highest found to date anywhere in the ocean and ranged from 2.9 to 8.5. Beam attenuation at 650 nm ranged from near zero to a rarely observed maximum of 192 m21 at 3.5 m above the vent. We did not find large (>100 lm) particles that would settle rapidly to the sediments. Instead, beam attenuation was well-correlated to total iron, suggesting the first-order importance of particle dilution, rather than precipitation or dissolution, in the rising plume at Piccard. Our observations at Piccard caution against the assumption of rapid deposition of hydrothermal, particulate metal fluxes, and illustrate the need for more particle size and composition measurements across a broader range of sites, globally.


© 2015, American Geophysical Union. Original published version available at

Publication Title

Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.