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Guangyu Xu

Research Scientist/Engineer - Senior





Research Interests

Guangyu Xu's research combines underwater acoustic and numerical modeling techniques to study fluid flows within both the seafloor and the ocean. Xu's scientific questions focus on: dynamics associated with seafloor hydrothermal discharge and its dispersal near a mid-ocean ridge, deep ocean flows and their interconnections with surface processes, sub-seafloor hydrothermal circulation, and acoustic seafloor characterization.

Department Affiliation



B.S. Ocean Technology, Ocean University of China (Qingdao, Shandong Province, China), 2008

M.S. Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, 2010

Ph.D. Marine Sciences, Rutgers University, 2015


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Acoustic and in-situ observations of deep seafloor hydrothermal discharge: An OOI Cabled Array ASHES vent field case study

Xu, G., K. Bemis, D. Jackson, and A. Ivakin, "Acoustic and in-situ observations of deep seafloor hydrothermal discharge: An OOI Cabled Array ASHES vent field case study," Earth Space Sci., 8, doi:10.1029/2020EA001269, 2021.

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1 Mar 2021

The Cabled Observatory Vent Imaging Sonar (COVIS) was installed on the Ocean Observatories Initiative's Regional Cabled Array observatory at ASHES hydrothermal vent field on Axial Seamount in July 2018. The acoustic backscatter data recorded by COVIS in August–September 2018, in conjunction with in situ temperature measurements, are used to showcase and verify the use of COVIS for long‐term, quantitative monitoring of hydrothermal discharge. Specifically, sonar data processing generates three‐dimensional backscatter images of the buoyant plumes above major sulfide structures and two‐dimensional maps of diffuse flows within COVIS's field‐of‐view. The backscatter images show substantial changes of plume appearance and orientation that mostly reflect plume bending in the presence of ambient currents and potentially the variations of outflow fluxes. The intensity of acoustic backscatter decreases significantly for highly bent plumes as compared to nearly vertical plumes, reflecting enhanced mixing of plume fluids with seawater driven by ambient currents. A forward model of acoustic backscatter from a buoyancy‐driven plume developed in this study yields a reasonable match with the observation, which paves the way for inversely estimating the source heat flux of a hydrothermal plume from acoustic backscatter measurements. The acoustic observations of diffuse flows show large temporal variations on time scales of hours to days, especially at tidal frequencies, but no apparent long‐term trend. These findings demonstrate COVIS's ability to quantitatively monitor hydrothermal discharge from both focused and diffuse sources to provide the research community with key observational data for studying the linkage of hydrothermal activity with oceanic and geological processes.

Hydrothermal activity and seismicity at Teahitia Seamount: Reactivation of the Society Islands hotspot?

German, C.R., J.A. Resing, G. Xu, I.A. Yeo, S.L. Walker, C.W. Dewey, J.W. Moffatt, G.A. Cutter, O. Hyvernaud, and D. Reymond, "Hydrothermal activity and seismicity at Teahitia Seamount: Reactivation of the Society Islands hotspot?" Font. Mar. Sci., 7, doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.00073, 2020.

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21 Feb 2020

Along mid-ocean ridges, submarine venting has been found at all spreading rates and in every ocean basin. By contrast, intraplate hydrothermal activity has only been reported from five locations, worldwide. Here we extend the time series at one of those sites, Teahitia Seamount, which was first shown to be hydrothermally active in 1983 but had not been revisited since 1999. Previously, submersible investigations had led to the discovery of low-temperature (≤30°C) venting associated with the summit of Teahitia Seamount at ≤1500 m. In December 2013 we returned to the same site at the culmination of the US GEOTRACES Eastern South Tropical Pacific (GP16) transect and found evidence for ongoing venting in the form of a non-buoyant hydrothermal plume at a depth of 1400 m. Multi-beam mapping revealed the same composite volcano morphology described previously for Teahitia including four prominent cones. The plume overlying the summit showed distinct in situ optical backscatter and redox anomalies, coupled with high concentrations of total dissolvable Fe (≤186 nmol/L) and Mn (≤33 nmol/L) that are all diagnostic of venting at the underlying seafloor. Continuous seismic records from 1986-present reveal a ~15 year period of quiescence at Teahitia, following the seismic crisis that first stimulated its submersible-led investigation. Since 2007, however, the frequency of seismicity at Teahitia, coupled with the low magnitude of those events, are suggestive of magmatic reactivation. Separately, distinct seismicity at the adjacent Rocard seamount has also been attributed to submarine extrusive volcanism in 2011 and in 2013. Theoretical modeling of the hydrothermal plume signals detected suggest a minimum heat flux of 10 MW at the summit of Teahitia. Those model simulations can only be sourced from an area of low-temperature venting such as that originally reported from Teahitia if the temperature of the fluids exiting the seabed has increased significantly, from ≤30°C to ~70°C. These model seafloor temperatures and our direct plume observations are both consistent with reports from Loihi Seamount, Hawaii, ~10 year following an episode of seafloor volcanism. We hypothesize that the Society Islands hotspot may be undergoing a similar episode of both magmatic and hydrothermal reactivation.

Dispersal of hydrothermal vent larvae at East Pacific Rise 9–10°N segment

Xu, G., D.J. McGillicuddy Jr., S.W. Mills, and L.S. Mullineaux, "Dispersal of hydrothermal vent larvae at East Pacific Rise 9–10°N segment," J. Geophys. Res., 123, 7877-7895, doi:, 2018.

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1 Nov 2018

A three‐dimensional, primitive‐equation, ocean circulation model coupled with a Lagrangian particle‐tracking algorithm is used to investigate the dispersal and settlement of planktonic larvae released from discrete hydrothermal habitats on the East Pacific Rise segment at 9–10°N. Model outputs show that mean circulation is anticyclonic around the ridge segment, which consists of a northward flow along the western flank and a southward flow along the eastern flank. Those flank jets are dispersal expressways for the along‐ridge larval transport and strongly affect its overall direction and spatial‐temporal variations. It is evident from model results that the transform faults bounding the ridge segment and off axis topography (the Lamont Seamount Chain) act as topographic barriers to larval dispersal in the along‐ridge direction. Furthermore, the presence of an overlapping spreading center and an adjacent local topographic high impedes the southward along‐ridge larval transport. The model results suggest that larval recolonization within ridge‐crest habitats is enhanced by the anticyclonic circulation around the ridge segment, and the overall recolonization rate is higher for larvae having a short precompetency period and an altitude above the bottom sufficient to avoid influence by the near‐bottom currents Surprisingly, for larvae having a long precompetency period (>10 days), the prolonged travel time allowed some of those larvae to return to their natal vent clusters, which results in an unexpected increase in connectivity among natal and neighboring sites. Overall, model‐based predictions of connectivity are highly sensitive to the larval precompetency period and vertical position in the water column.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center