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Authors: Federico, Cinzia* 
Inguaggiato, Salvatore* 
Chacón, Zoraida* 
Londoño, John Makario* 
Gil, Edwing* 
Alzate, Diego* 
Title: Vapour discharges on Nevado del Ruiz during the recent activity: Clues on the composition of the deep hydrothermal system and its effects on thermal springs
Issue Date: 8-Apr-2017
Series/Report no.: /346 (2017)
DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.04.007
Keywords: Nevado del Ruiz
Water isotopes
Geothermal system
Equilibrium modelling
Water chemistry
Subject Classification04.08. Volcanology 
03.02. Hydrology 
Abstract: The Nevado del Ruiz volcano is considered one of the most active volcanoes in Colombia, which can potentially threaten approximately 600,000 inhabitants. The existence of a glacier and several streams channelling in some main rivers, flowing downslope, increases the risk for the population living on the flank of the volcano in case of unrest, because of the generation of lahars and mudflows. Indeed, during the November 1985 subplinian eruption, a lahar generated by the sudden melting of the glacier killed twenty thousand people in the town of Armero. Moreover, the involvement of the local hydrothermal system has produced in the past phreatic and phreatomagmatic activity, as occurred in 1989. Therefore, the physico-chemical conditions of the hydrothermal system as well as its contribution to the shallow thermal groundwater and freshwater in terms of enthalpy and chemicals require a close monitoring. The phase of unrest occurred since 2010 and culminated with an eruption in 2012, after several years of relative stability, stillmaintains amoderate alert, as required by the high seismicity and SO2 degassing. In October 2013, a sampling campaign has been performed on thermal springs and stream water, located at 2600–5000 m of elevation on the slope of Nevado del Ruiz, analyzed for water chemistry and stable isotopes. Some of these waters are typically steam-heated (low pH and high sulfate content) by the vapour probably separating from a zoned hydrothermal system. By applying a model of steam-heating, based on mass and enthalpy balances, we have estimated themass rate of hydrothermal steam discharging in the different springs. The composition of the hottest thermal spring (Botero Londono) 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, along with the retrieved isotope composition, a chiefly meteoric origin. The vapour discharged at the steam vent “Nereidas” (3600 m asl) is hypothesized to be separated from a high temperature hydrothermal 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, aswell as its pH and fO2. The vapour feeding Nereidas would separate from a biphasic hydrothermal system characterized by the following parameters: t= 315 °C, P= 15 MPa, NaCl = 10 wt%, CO2=5 wt%, and similar proportion between liquid and vapour. Considering also the equilibria involving S-bearing gases and HCl, pH would approach the value of 1.5 while fO2 would correspond to the FeO-Fe2O3 buffer. Chlorine content is estimated at 10,300mg/l. Changes in the magmatic input into the hydrothermal system couldmodify its degree of vapourization 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.
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