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Shaul Hurwitz

My research objectives are to characterize and quantify spatial and temporal patterns of temperature, pressure, chemistry, and phase (e.g. liquid or gas) in volcano-hydrothermal systems and relate them to magmatic and/or volcanic activity. 

Quantitative understanding of groundwater and gas-rich fluid dynamics in volcanic areas is important for several reasons: 1) pressure, temperature and chemical changes in the hydrothermal system might signal one of the earliest warnings of volcanic unrest, 2) Many of the geochemical, geodetic, and seismic signals measured at the volcano’s surface have hydrothermal origins or magmatic origins modulated by the intervening hydrothermal system, 3) as a major source of hazard such as propellant in steam-driven explosions, lubricant in mudflows, and transport agent for toxic constituents such as arsenic and mercury, 4) guiding exploration and mining of geothermal energy and mineral deposits. To better understand these complex systems I integrate and synthesize hydrologic, geochemical, geologic, and geophysical methods.  My research is intended to support the USGS Volcano Hazards Program’s broad goal of lessening the harmful impacts of volcanic activity and the Geothermal Project's goals of exploring reservoirs of hot fluids in the Earth’s crust.

Research topics: 

  • Water-gas-rock interaction in volcano-hydrothermal systems using field observations, chemical and isotopic data, controlled laboratory experiments and thermodynamic models  
  • Numerical simulations of volcano-hydrothermal systems 
  • Modulation of volcanic and geyser activity by cyclic hydrological and climatic forcers and by large earthquakes 
  • The effects of deglaciation on Yellowstone's hydrothermal system
  • Heat transport in volcanic systems 
  • Dynamics and chemistry of volcanic lakes
  • Geyser dynamics - motivation for studying geysers
  • The impact of geothermal energy production on groundwater quality 
  • Development of a field-portable helium isotope analyzer