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Authors: Montanaro, Cristian* 
Mayer, Klaus* 
Isaia, Roberto* 
Gresse, Marceau* 
Scheu, Bettina* 
Yilmaz, Tim I.* 
Vandemeulebrouck, Jean* 
Ricci, Tullio* 
Dingwell, Donald B.* 
Title: Hydrothermal activity and subsoil complexity: implication for degassing processes at Solfatara crater, Campi Flegrei caldera
Journal: Bulletin of Volcanology 
Series/Report no.: /79 (2017)
Issue Date: 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00445-017-1167-z
Keywords: Solfatara crater
Hydrothermal alteration
Abstract: The Solfatara area and its fumaroles are the main surface expression of the vigorous hydrothermal activity within the active Campi Flegrei caldera system. At depth, a range of volcanic and structural processes dictate the actual state of the hydrothermal system below the crater. The presence of a large variety of volcanic products at shallow depth (including pyroclastic fallout ash beds, pyroclastic density current deposits, breccias, and lavas), and the existence of a maar-related fault system appears to exert major controls on the degassing and alteration behavior. Adding further to the complexity of this environment, variations in permeability and porosity, due to subsoil lithology and alteration effects, may further influence fluid flow towards the surface. Here, we report results from a field campaign conducted in July 2015 that was designed to characterize the in situ physical (temperature, humidity) and mechanical (permeability, strength, stiffness) properties of the Solfatara crater subsoil. The survey also included a mapping of the surficial hydrothermal features and their distributions. Finally, laboratory measurements (porosity, granulometry) of selected samples were performed. Our results enable the discrimination of four main subsoils around the crater: (1) the Fangaia domain located in a topographic low in the southwestern sector, (2) the silica flat domain on the western altered side, (3) the new crust domain in the central area, and (4) the crusted hummocks domain that dominates the north, east, and south parts. These domains are surrounded by encrusted areas, reworked material, and vegetated soil. The distribution of these heterogeneous subsoils suggests that their formation is mostly related to (i) the presence of the Fangaia domain within the crater and (ii) a system of ring faults bordering it. The subsoils show an alternation between very high and very low permeabilities, a fact which seems to affect both the temperature distribution and surficial degassing. A large range of surface temperatures (from 25 up to 95 °C) has been measured across these surfaces, with the hottest spot corresponding to the mud pools, the area of new crust formation, and the crusted hummocks. In the subsoil, the distribution of temperature is more complex and controlled by the presence of coarser, and more permeable, sandy/pebbly levels. These act as preferential pathways for hot hydrothermal fluid circulation. In contrast, low permeability, fine-grained levels act as thermal insulators that remain relatively cold and hinder fluid escape to the surface. Hot gases reach the surface predominantly along (vertical) fractures. When this occurs, mound-like structures can be formed by a cracking and healing process associated with significant degassing. It is anticipated that the results presented here may contribute to an improved understanding of the hazard potential associated with the ongoing hydrothermal activity within the Solfatara crater. At this site the permeability of the near-surface environment and its changes in space and time can affect the spatial and temporal distribution of gas and heat emission. Particularly, in areas where reduction in permeability occurs, it can produce pore pressure augmentation that may result in explosive events.
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