Autores Ckelar: Manuel Inostroza, Felipe Aguilera, Susana Layana

Otros autores: Bárbara Fernández, Thomas R. Walter, Martin Zimmer, Augusto Rodríguez-Díaz, Marcus Oelze

Revista Científica: Frontiers Earth Science


Molten sulfur is found in various subaerial volcanoes. However, limited records of the pools and flows of molten sulfur have been reported: therefore, questions remain regarding the physicochemical processes behind this phenomenon. A suite of new sulfur flows, some of which active, was identified at the Lastarria volcano (northern Chile) and studied using satellite imagery, in situ probing, and temperature and video recording. This finding provides a unique opportunity to better understand the emplacement mechanisms and mineral and chemical compositions of molten sulfur, in addition to gaining insight into its origin. Molten sulfur presented temperatures of 124–158°C, with the most prolonged sulfur flow reaching 12 m from the source. Photogrammetric tools permitted the identification of levees and channel structures, with an estimated average flow speed of 0.069 m/s. Field measurements yielded a total volume of 1.45 ± 0.29 m3 of sulfur (equivalent to ∼2.07 tons) mobilized during the January 2019 event for at least 408 min. Solidified sulfur was composed of native sulfur with minor galena and arsenic- and iodine-bearing minerals. Trace element analysis indicated substantial enrichment of Bi, Sb, Sn, Cd, as well as a very high concentration of As (>40.000 ppm). The January 2019 molten sulfur manifestations in Lastarria appear to be more enriched in As compared to the worldwide known volcanoes with molten sulfur records, such as the Shiretoko-Iozan and Poás volcanoes. Furthermore, their rheological properties suggest that the “time of activity” in events such as this could be underestimated as flows in Lastarria have moved significantly slower than previously thought. The origin of molten sulfur is ascribed to the favorable S-rich chemistry of fumarolic gases and changes in host rock permeability (fracture opening). Molten sulfur in Lastarria correlates with a peak in activity characterized by high emissions of SO2 and other acid species, such as HF and HCl, in addition to ground deformation. Consequently, molten sulfur was framed within a period of volcanic unrest in Lastarria, triggered by changes in the magmatic-hydrothermal system. The appearance of molten sulfur is related to physicochemical perturbations inside the volcanic system and is perhaps a precursor of eruptive activity, as observed in the Poás and Turrialba volcanoes.

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