Collaborative Research: EAR-Climate: Linkages Between Glacio-climatic, Hydrothermal, and Volcanic Processes in the Central Andes

Lead PI: Michael Kaplan

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

May 2022 - April 2025
South America ; Central America ; Andes
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: While volcanic and hydrological responses to glacial activity have been documented around the globe, the response of hydrothermal systems remains largely unstudied. Important questions to be addressed include: How do hydrological, hydrothermal and/or volcanic systems respond to climate change and glacier expansion and retreat? What are the timing and mechanisms that control these responses? Answering these questions has significant impacts on hazard assessments (phreatic eruptions and hydrothermal explosions), geothermal exploration, and mineral deposits. El Tatio volcanic-hydrothermal system, Central Andes, provides an ideal natural laboratory to investigate these interactions. El Tatio has been active since the last deglaciation and preserves exceptional morpho-stratigraphic evidence of volcanic, glacial, and hydrothermal activity. Unlike past studies, focusing on large continental ice masses during the Last Glacial Maximum, El Tatio experienced smaller alpine or mountain glaciations. That configuration is more representative of the world-wide distribution of glaciers and the processes occurring due to modern climate change. Led by an early career Latino-woman, this project will intensify collaborations with Chilean Universities, and will engage historically marginalized native communities who own the land.

This project will use an interdisciplinary approach that brings together experts from different US institutions and Chile, which propose to address the following: (i) to establish spatial and temporal linkages between glacier fluctuations including deglaciation and the onset of hydrothermal and/or volcanic activity by constraining the field distribution and timing of different events; and (ii) to make quantitative estimation of the hydrothermal responses to glacial unloading, changes in water and heat supply using field data (ages and estimation of ice thickness) and numerical models of multiphase flow and deformation in heterogeneous porous media. Results from this study will provide a better understanding of the interrelated and competing controls of hydrothermal responses (for example, glacier distribution, thickness, and rates of advance/recession; rheology; permeability; and reservoir depth).

This project is jointly funded by the Hydrologic Sciences Program, the Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics Program, and the Petrology and Geochemistry Program.