Evidence suggests that fluid flow rates in mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal systems may be strongly influenced by mechanical forces such as ocean tidal loading. However, long time-series measurements of flow have not been collected in these environments. We develop a non-invasive method, called optical plume velocimetry (OPV), suitable for obtaining fluid flow rates through black smoker vents based on image analysis of effluent video. We use video from laboratory flows to evaluate three different methods for estimating the image-velocity field that are based on region-based matching, spectral-analysis of Hovmoller diagrams, and temporal cross-correlation of adjacent pixel values. We find that OPV is most sensitive and least biased when the cross-correlation method is used and conclude that OPV should not be applied to flows that are transitioning between jet-like and plume-like behavior.
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