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Systematic Shift in Plume Bending Direction at Grotto Vent, Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Implies Systematic Change in Venting Output along the Endeavour Segment
  • Karen Bemis,
  • Michael Zhao,
  • Dax Soule
Karen Bemis
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick

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Michael Zhao
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
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Dax Soule
CUNY Queens College
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Analysis of the time-dependent behavior of the buoyant plume rising above Grotto Vent (Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge) as imaged by the Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar (COVIS) between September 2010 and October of 2015 captures long-term time-dependent changes in the direction of background bottom currents independent of broader oceanographic processes, indicating a systematic evolution in vent output along the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The behavior of buoyant plumes is a convolved expression of hydrothermal flux from the seafloor and ocean bottom currents in the vicinity of the hydrothermal vent. Plume behavior can be quantified by describing the volume, velocity and orientation of the effluent relative to the seafloor. Using three-dimensional acoustic images by the COVIS system, we looked at the azimuth and inclination of the Grotto plume in 3 hour intervals and identified a bimodal shift in their bending from NW and SW to SE in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to single mode NW in 2013 and 2014. Modeling of the distribution of azimuths for each year with a bimodal Guassian indicates that the prominence of southward bottom currents decreased systematically between 2010 and 2014. Spectral analysis of the azimuthal data showed a strong semi-diurnal peak, a weak or missing diurnal peak, and some energy in the sub-inertial and weather bands. This suggests the dominant current generating processes are either not periodic (such as the entrainment fields generated by the hydrothermal plumes themselves) or are related to tidal processes. The surface wind patterns in buoy data at 2 sites in the Northeast Pacific and the incidence of sea-surface height changes related to mesoscale eddies show little systematic change over this time period. Given the limited bottom current data for the Main Endeavour Field and other parts of the Endeavour segment, we hypothesize that changes in venting either within the Main Endeavour Field or along the Endeavour Segment have resulted in the changes in background currents. Previous numerical simulations (Thomsen et al 2009) showed that background bottom currents were more likely to be controlled by the local (segment-scale) venting than by outside ocean circulation or atmospheric patterns.