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Decadal-scale variability of diffuse CO2 emissions and seismicity revealed from long-term monitoring (1995–2013) at Mammoth Mountain, California, USA

January 1, 2014

Mammoth Mountain, California, is a dacitic volcano that has experienced several periods of unrest since 1989. The onset of diffuse soil CO2 emissions at numerous locations on the flanks of the volcano began in 1989–1990 following an 11-month period of heightened seismicity. CO2 emission rates were measured yearly from 1995 to 2013 at Horseshoe Lake (HSL), the largest tree kill area on Mammoth Mountain, and measured intermittently at four smaller degassing areas around Mammoth from 2006 to 2013. The long-term record at HSL shows decadal-scale variations in CO2 emissions with two peaks in 2000–2001 and 2011–2012, both of which follow peaks in seismicity by 2–3 years. Between 2000 and 2004 emissions gradually declined during a seismically quiet period, and from 2004 to 2009 were steady at ~ 100 metric tonnes per day (t d− 1). CO2emissions at the four smaller tree-kill areas also increased by factors of 2–3 between 2006 and 2011–2012, demonstrating a mountain-wide increase in degassing. Delays between the peaks in seismicity and degassing have been observed at other volcanic and hydrothermal areas worldwide, and are thought to result from an injection of deep CO2-rich fluid into shallow subsurface reservoirs causing a pressurization event with a delayed transport to the surface. Such processes are consistent with previous studies at Mammoth, and here we highlight (1) the mountain-wide response, (2) the characteristic delay of 2–3 years, and (3) the roughly decadal reoccurrence interval for such behavior. Our best estimate of total CO2 degassing from Mammoth Mountain was 416 t d− 1 in 2011 during the peak of emissions, over half of which was emitted from HSL. The cumulative release of CO2 between 1995 and 2013 from diffuse emissions is estimated to be ~ 2–3 Mt, and extrapolation back to 1989 gives ~ 4.8 Mt. This amount of CO2 release is similar to that produced by the mid-sized (VEI 3) 2009 eruption of Redoubt Volcano in Alaska (~ 2.3 Mt over 11 months), and significantly lower than long-term emissions from hydrothermal areas such as Solfatara in Campi Flegrei, Italy (16 Mt over 28 years).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Decadal-scale variability of diffuse CO2 emissions and seismicity revealed from long-term monitoring (1995–2013) at Mammoth Mountain, California, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2014.10.020
Authors Cynthia A. Werner, Deborah Bergfeld, Chris Farrar, Michael P. Doukas, Peter J. Kelly, Christoph Kern
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70187063
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Hazards Program