Modeling Axial System: Observations to Understanding

Modeling Axial System: Observations to Understanding


Modeling Axial System: Observations to Understanding

Timothy Crone

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One way to think about modeling is that it is a process that helps us connect our observations to our understanding. Models provide frameworks of understanding that we can use to interpret what we observe in real Earth systems. Sometimes this process involves complex numerical forward modeling and simulations, sometimes analytical, inverse or regression modeling, or sometimes conceptual, cartoon, or "back of the envelope" modeling. But almost every kind of science, regardless of approach, involves modeling of some kind. In this way, we are all modelers. Put another way, doing science is the art of making models.

In this talk we will explore a couple of disruptive concepts. First, as discussed above, we are all modelers, and our approach to Axial Cabled Array science should reflect this important commonality. Second, as much as we wish we were, we are not ready to “model the entire Axial system”, mantle to microbe, or atom to ocean. The Axial Cabled Array offers a platform that may one day make this possible, but this is likely years off. At this stage, as scientists and modelers, we should continue to build “question-based” and relatively simple models that can move us closer to understanding the critical aspects of the system that remain unknown. Questions such as, what is the shape of the isotherms within the hydrothermal system? How does the magma resupply system work, and what are the magma chamber dynamics? What is the fate of hydrothermal fluids, chemicals, and heat once ejected into the overlying ocean? Such questions, if posed properly, will drive us toward making new observations at Axial that we will need to build the next generation of models and our next level of understanding.

If time allows, we will discuss a case study, showing how numerical models predict large potential changes in fluid flow rates within the Axial hydrothermal system forced by periodic (tidal) and episodic (tectonic and magmatic) processes, and that making measurements of fluid flow rates in this system is critical for understanding a whole host of processes at Axial.

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