An Oxygen Isotope Study Of Hydrothermal Alteration In The Lake City Caldera, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

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Journal Article: An Oxygen Isotope Study Of Hydrothermal Alteration In The Lake City Caldera, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

A 23-m.y.-old, fossil meteoric-hydrothermal system in the Lake City caldera (11 _ 14 km) has been mapped out by measuring Δ 18O values of 300 rock and mineral samples. Δ 18O varies systematically throughout the caldera, reaching values as low as -2. Great topographic relief, regional tilting, and variable degrees of erosion within the caldera all combine to give us a very complete section through the hydrothermal system, from the surface down to a depth of more than 2000 m. The initial Δ 18O value of the caldera-fill Sunshine Peak Tuff was very uniform (+7.2 ± 0.1), making it easy to determine the exact amount of 18O depletion experienced by each sample during hydrothermal alteration. Also, we have excellent stratigraphic control on depths beneath the mid-Tertiary surface, quantitative information on mineralogical alteration products, and accurate data on the shape of the central resurgent intrusion, which was the principal 'heat engine' that drove the hydrothermal circulation. Major conclusions are: (1) Although pristine mid-Tertiary meteoric waters in this area had Δ 18O = -14, these fluids were 18O-shifted upward to about Δ18O = -8 to -5 prior to entering the shallow convective system associated with the resurgent intrusive rocks. Although there was undoubtedly radial inflow toward the caldera from all directions, the highly fractured Eureka Graben, southwest of the caldera, was probably the principal source of recharge groundwater for the Lake City system. (2) Fluid flow within the caldera was dominated by three major categories of permeable zones: the porous megabreccia units (which dip outward from the resurgent dome), vertical fractures and faults related to resurgence, and the caldera ring fault itself. All of these zones exhibit marked 18O depletions, and they are also typically intensely mineralogically altered. (3) The resurgent intrusive stock and its contact metamorphic aureole of hornfels both experienced water/rock ratios lower than the permeable zones; however, they have similarly low Δ 18O values because they were altered at higher temperatures. (4) Throughout the caldera, the Δ 18O of Sunshine Peak Tuff decreases with increasing depth (about 6 per mil/km), indicative of a shallow thermal gradient, typical of a convective hydrothermal system. The near-surface portion of this gradient was controlled by the temperature drop associated with boiling in the uprising fluid. (5) Deeply circulating meteoric water rose along permeable ring fractures 3 to 5 km beneath the mid-Tertiary surface. These fluids were drawn into the shallow convective system through the lower, porous, megabreccia units. Near the resurgent intrusions, fluid flow was again directed upward where resurgence-related, near-vertical fractures intersect the megabreccia units.

Peter B. Larson and Hugh P. Taylor Jr

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 1986

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Peter B. Larson,Hugh P. Taylor Jr. 1986. An Oxygen Isotope Study Of Hydrothermal Alteration In The Lake City Caldera, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .

Related Geothermal Exploration Activities
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Areas (1)
  1. San Juan Volcanic Field Area
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