Fluids in Submarine Mid-Ocean Ridge Hydrothermal Settings

Metamorphic reactions within the Earth’s crust produce fluids of variable composition that play a major role in the evolution of continents. Metamorphic fluids facilitate reactions that alter crustal rheology, reduce melting temperature, cycle elements between geological reservoirs and form ore deposits. These fluids are relatively inaccessible, other than by study of fluid inclusions, so most studies rely on a combination of indirect evidence and predictive thermodynamic models to determine the characteristics and roles of the fluids. In this article, the origins, compositions, controlling phase equilibria, and roles of metamorphic fluids are reviewed, followed by a discussion of selected areas of current and future research.

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Hydrothermal Properties of Geologic Fluids

Aqueous fluids are critical agents in the geochemical evolution of Earth’s interior. Fluid circulation and fluid–rock reactions in the Earth take place at temperatures ranging from ambient to magmatic, at pressures from ambient to extreme, and involve fluids that range from nearly pure H2O through to complex, multicomponent solutions. Consequently, the physical and chemical properties of hydrothermal fluids vary widely as functions of geologic setting; this variation strongly impacts fluid-driven processes. This issue will focus on the nature of geologic fluids at hydrothermal conditions and how such fluids affect geologic processes in some major settings.

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