A hydrographic transient above the Salty Dawg hydrothermal field, Endeavour segment, Juan de Fuca Ridge
During systematic repeat hydrography cruises to the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006, we encountered a transient increase in the water column heat content above the Salty Dawg hydrothermal field. First observed in July 2005 and mapped in greater detail in August 2005, this feature was not a typical event or megaplume since potential temperature anomalies were continuously elevated from the plume top to the seafloor. During the summer of 2005, the heat content in the waters above Salty Dawg was elevated similar to 30 TJ, and the plume top was over 150 m higher in the water column than the other years measured. Based on scaling analyses, an order of magnitude increase in the volume flux from Salty Dawg would be required to generate a neutrally buoyant plume of this size. This observation was unexpected because no substantial earthquakes were detected in the time frame of this increased heat flux. The duration of the transient suggests possible forcing mechanisms: advancement of a cracking front, a small-scale dike intrusion, aseismic crustal movement, fracture of a flow constriction to a previously unaccessible reservoir, an increase of heat in an underlying magma chamber, or movement of melt within the axial magma chamber. The transient disappeared before returning in August 2006, likely due to thermal expansion of shallow host rock, decreasing the permeability. Should such increases in seafloor heat flux prove to be common, the rate of hydrothermal cooling could be faster than previously thought.