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Authors: Paonita, A.* 
Longo, M.* 
Bellomo, S.* 
D'Alessandro, W.* 
Brusca, L.* 
Title: Dissolved inert gases (He, Ne and N2) as markers of groundwater flow and degassing areas at Mt Etna volcano (Italy)
Journal: Chemical geology 
Series/Report no.: /443(2016) Elsevier Science Limited
Issue Date: 2016
DOI: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2016.09.018
Keywords: Dissolved gas in water
Noble gas geochemistry
Groundwater flow
Nitrogen geochemistry
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.12. Fluid Geochemistry 
Abstract: Fractions of the volatiles ascending from magma chambers meet groundwaters flowing away from the volcano summit and are carried to great distance as dissolved gases. The complex interactions between ascending magmatic volatiles, tectonic structures, heterogeneities in rock permeability and flow lines of aquifers deeply affect the dispersion of the dissolved species. Studying the spatial distribution of such species can therefore provide valuable information on the circulation of fluids inside volcanic edifices. Our study focussed on the composition of dissolved inert gases (He, Ne and N2) and He isotope ratio (3He/4He) in groundwaters circulating at Mt Etna volcano (Italy), because the concentrations of these species differ markedly between magmatic and shallow(crustal and atmospheric) sources, and they do not interact chemically with rocks. We identified groundwaters that flow through anomalously degassing areas associated with clearly evident or known tectonic structures. These waters show a typically magmatic He isotope composition (high 3He/4He ratios) and high proportions of dissolved magmatic gases (He and CO2) compared to the atmospheric ones (Ne and N2). Downstream of the degassing structures, along the hydrological outflows, we found groundwaters that are progressively enriched in atmospheric-derived gases (Ne and N2) and exhibited lower 3He/4He ratios. On this basis, we set up a model of unidimensional dispersion-advection of inert volatile solutes, coupled with a two-layer model for the dynamic exchange of volatiles through the aquifer–atmosphere interface. The model is able to quantitatively explain the progressive dilution of the magmatic signal over distances of several kilometres from the source location of the anomaly towards the final part of the flow lines at the coast. Typical hydrogeological parameters such as the flow velocity, rock permeability and rate of air–groundwater interaction can be constrained, and underground pathways of waters can be identified. Waters that are anomalously rich in magmatic tracers with respect to their peripheral position along the flowlines reflect arrival of deep gases frombelow, and they therefore offer a powerful tool for revealing hidden tectonic structures.
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