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Tracing and quantifying magmatic carbon discharge in cold groundwaters: Lessons learned from Mammoth Mountain, USA

January 1, 2002

A major campaign to quantify the magmatic carbon discharge in cold groundwaters around Mammoth Mountain volcano in eastern California was carried out from 1996 to 1999. The total water flow from all sampled cold springs was ??? 1.8 ?? 107 m3/yr draining an area that receives an estimated 2.5 ?? 107 m3/yr of recharge, suggesting that sample coverage of the groundwater system was essentially complete. Some of the waters contain magmatic helium with 3He/4He ratios as high as 4.5 times the atmospheric ratio, and a magmatic component in the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) can be identified in virtually every feature sampled. Many waters have a 14C of 0-5 pmC, a ??13C near -5???, and contain high concentrations (20-50 mmol/1) of CO2(aq); but are otherwise dilute (specific conductance = 100-300 ??S/cm) with low pH values between 5 and 6. Such waters have previously escaped notice at Mammoth Mountain, and possibly at many other volcanoes, because CO2 is rapidly lost to the air as the water flows away from the springs, leaving neutral pH waters containing only 1-3 mmol/1 HCO-3. The total discharge of magmatic carbon in the cold groundwater system at Mammoth Mountain is ~ 20 000 t/yr (as CO2), ranging seasonally from about 30 to 90 t/day. Several types of evidence show that this high discharge of magmatic DIC arose in part because of shallow dike intrusion in 1989, but also demonstrate that a long-term discharge possibly half this magnitude (~ 10 000 t/yr) predated that intrusion. To sustain a 10 000 t/yr DIC discharge would require a magma intrusion rate of 0.057 km3 per century, assuming complete degassing of magma with 0.65 wt% CO2 and a density of 2.7 t/m3. The geochemical data also identify a small ( < 1 t/day) discharge of magmatic DIC that can be traced to the Inyo Domes area north of Mammoth Mountain and outside the associated Long Valley caldera. This research, along with recent studies at Lassen Peak and other western USA volcanoes, suggests that the amount of magmatic carbon in cold groundwaters is important to constraining rates of intrusion and edifice weathering at individual volcanoes and may even represent a significant fraction of the global carbon discharge from volcanoes. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Tracing and quantifying magmatic carbon discharge in cold groundwaters: Lessons learned from Mammoth Mountain, USA
DOI 10.1016/S0377-0273(01)00268-2
Authors William C. Evans, M. L. Sorey, A.C. Cook, B.M. Kennedy, D.L. Shuster, E.M. Colvard, L.D. White, M.A. Huebner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70024667
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization