Differences in fluid density between cold ocean water and warm ground water can drive the circulation of seawater through carbonate platforms. The circulating water can be the major source of dissolved constituents for diagenetic reactions such as dolomitization. This study was undertaken to investigate the conditions under which such circulation can occur and to determine which factors control both the flux and the patterns of fluid circulation and temperature distribution, given the expected ranges of those factors in nature. Results indicate that the magnitude and distribution of permeability within a carbonate platform are the most important parameters. Depending on the values of horizontal and vertical permeability, heat transport within a platform can occur by one of three mechanisms: conduction, forced convection, or free convection. Depth-dependent relations for porosity and permeability in carbonate platforms suggest circulation may decrease rapidly with depth. The fluid properties of density and viscosity are controlled primarily by their dependency on temperature. The bulk thermal conductivity of the rocks within the platform affects the conductive regime to some extent, especially if evaporite minerals are present within the section. Platform geometry has only a second-order effect on circulation. The relative position of sealevel can create surface conditions that range from exposed (with a fresh-water lens present) to shallow water (with hypersaline conditions created by evaporation in constricted flow conditions) to submerged or drowned (with free surface water circulation), but these boundary conditions and associated ocean temperature profiles have only a second-order effect on fluid circulation. Deep, convective circulation can be caused by horizon tal temperature gradients and can occur even at depths below the ocean bottom. Temperature data from deep holes in the Florida and Bahama platforms suggest that geothermal circulation is actively occurring today to depths as great as several kilometers.
Additional publication details
Numerical analysis of seawater circulation in carbonate platforms: I. Geothermal convection