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Elemental changes and alteration recorded by basaltic drill core samples recovered from in situ temperatures up to 345°C in the active, seawater-recharged Reykjanes geothermal system, Iceland


Hydrothermal activity results in element exchanges between seawater and oceanic crust that contribute to many aspects of ocean chemistry; therefore, improving knowledge of the associated chemical processes is of global significance. Hydrothermally altered basaltic drill core samples from the seawater-recharged Reykjanes geothermal system in Iceland record elemental gains and losses similar to those observed in samples of hydrothermally altered oceanic crust. At Reykjanes, rocks originally emplaced on the seafloor were buried by continued volcanism and subsided to the current depths (>2250 m below surface). These rocks integrate temperature-dependent elemental gains and losses from multiple stages of hydrothermal alteration that correspond to chemical exchanges observed in rocks from different crustal levels of submarine hydrothermal systems. Specifically, these lithologies have gained U, Mg, Zn, and Pb and have lost K, Rb, Ba, Cu, and light rare earth elements (La through Eu). Alteration and elemental gains and losses in lithologies emplaced on the seafloor can only be explained by a complex multistage hydrothermal alteration history. Reykjanes dolerite intrusions record alteration similar to that reported for the sheeted dike section of several examples of oceanic crust. Specifically, Reykjanes dolerites have lost K, Rb, Ba, and Pb, and gained Cu. The Reykjanes drill core samples provide a unique analog for seawater-oceanic crust reactions actively occurring at high temperatures (275–345°C) beneath a seafloor hydrothermal system.

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