An Intermediate-Depth Source of Hydrothermal 3He and Dissolved Iron In the North Pacific

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Marine Science


Ocean Science and Engineering


We observed large water column anomalies in helium isotopes and trace metal concentrations above the Loihi Seamount. The 3He/4He of the added helium was 27.3 times the atmospheric ratio, clearly marking its origin to a primitive mantle plume. The dissolved iron to 3He ratio (dFe:3He) exported to surrounding waters was 9.3 ± 0.3 × 106. We observed the Loihi 3He and dFe “signal” at a depth of 1100 m at several stations within ∼100 – 1000 km of Loihi, which exhibited a distal dFe:3He ratio of ~ 4 ± 106, about half the proximal ratio. These ratios were remarkably similar to those observed over and near the Southern East Pacific Rise (SEPR) despite greatly contrasting geochemical and volcanic-tectonic origins. In contrast, the proximal and distal dMn:3He ratios were both ~ 1 × 106, less than half of that observed at the SEPR. Dissolved methane was minimally enriched in waters above Loihi Seamount and was distally absent. Using an idealized regional-scale model we replicated the historically observed regional 3He distribution, requiring a hydrothermal 3He source from Loihi of 10.4 ± 4.2 mol a−1, ∼2% of the global abyssal hydrothermal 3He flux. From this we compute a corresponding dFe flux of ∼40 Mmol a−1. Global circulation model simulations suggest that the Loihi-influenced waters eventually upwell along the west coast of North America, also extending into the shallow northwest Pacific, making it a possibly important determinant of marine primary production in the subpolar North Pacific.

Publication Title

Earth and Planetary Science Letters



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