Vapor Discharges On Nevado Del Ruiz During The Recent Activity: Clues On The Composition Of The Deep Hydrothermal System And Its Effects On Thermal Springs
Abstract:The Nevado del ruiz volcano (NdR, 5321m asl), one of the most active in Colombia, threatens about 600,000 people. The existence of an ice cap and several streams channeling in some main rivers increase the risk of lahars and mudflows in case of unrest, as occurred during the November 1985 eruption, which caused 20,000 casualties. The involvement of the local hydrothermal system has also produced in the past phreatic and phreatomagmatic activity, as in 1985 and 1989. After more than 7 years of relative stability, since 2010, the still ongoing phase of unrest has produced two small eruption in 2012, and still maintains in high levels of seismicity and SO2 degassing.
In October 2013, a sampling campaign has been performed on thermal springs and streamwater, located at 2600-5000 m asl, analyzed for water chemistry and stable isotopes. By applying a model of steam-heating, based on mass and enthalpy balances, we have estimated the mass rate of steam discharging in the different steam-heated springs.
The composition of the hottest thermal spring (Botero Londoño) is probably representative of a marginal part of the hydrothermal system, having a temperature of 250°C and low salinity (Cl ~1500 mg/l), which suggest a chiefly meteoric origin, as also confirmed by the isotope composition retrieved for the hydrothermal water.
The vapour discharged at the steam vent "Nereidas" (3600 m asl) is hypothesised to be separated from a high-temperature hyrothermal system. Based on its composition and on literature data on fluid inclusions, we have retrieved the P-T-X conditions of the deep hydrothermal system, as well as its pH and fO2. The vapour feeding Nereidas would separate from a byphasic hydrothermal system characterised by the follow parameters:
t= 315°C, P=19 MPa, NaCl= 15 %, CO2 = 9%, and similar proportion between liquid and vapour. Considering also the equilibria involving S-bearing gases and HCl, we obtain pH=2, fO2 fixed by FeO-Fe2O3 buffer, and [Cl]=12000 mg/l. Changes in the magmatic input into the hydrothermal system could modify its degree of vaporization and/or P-T-X conditions, thus inducing corresponding variations in vapour discharges and thermal waters. These findings, paralleled by contemporary measurements of water flow rates, could give significant clues on risk evaluation at NdR.