Abstract

Time-series sensor data reveal significant short-term and seasonal variations of magmatic CO2 in soil over a 12 month period in 1995–1996 at the largest tree-kill site on Mammoth Mountain, central-eastern California. Short-term variations leading to ground-level soil CO2 concentrations hazardous and lethal to humans were triggered by shallow faulting in the absence of increased seismicity or intrusion, consistent with tapping a reservoir of accumulated CO2, rather than direct magma degassing. Hydrologic processes closely modulated seasonal variations in CO2 concentrations, which rose to 65%–100% in soil gas under winter snowpack and plunged more than 25% in just days as the CO2 dissolved in spring snowmelt. The high efflux of CO2 through the tree-kill soils acts as an open-system CO2 buffer causing infiltration of waters with pH values commonly of <4.2, acid loading of up to 7 keqH+ṁha−1ṁyr−1, mobilization of toxic Al3+, and long-term decline of soil fertility.

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