We present a reconstruction of episodic fluid flow over the past ~250 k.y. along the Malpais normal fault, which hosts the Beowawe hydrothermal system (Nevada, USA), using a novel combination of the apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) thermochronometer and a model of the thermal effects of fluid flow. Samples show partial resetting of the AHe thermochronometer in a 40-m-wide zone around the fault. Numerical models using current fluid temperatures and discharge rates indicate that fluid flow events lasting 2 k.y. or more lead to fully reset samples. Episodic fluid pulses lasting 1 k.y. result in partially reset samples, with 30–40 individual fluid pulses required to match the data. Episodic fluid flow is also supported by an overturned geothermal gradient in a borehole that crosses the fault, and by breaks in stable isotope trends in hydrothermal sinter deposits that coincide with two independently dated earthquakes in the past 20 k.y. This suggests a system where fluid flow is triggered by repeated seismic activity, and that seals itself over ~1 k.y. due to the formation of clays and silicates in the fault damage zone. Hydrothermal activity is younger than the 6–10 Ma age of the fault, which means that deep (~5 km) fluid flow was initiated only after a large part of the 230 m of fault offset had taken place.
Research Article|August 20, 2019
Episodic fluid flow in an active fault
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Sarah Louis, Elco Luijendijk, István Dunkl, Mark Person; Episodic fluid flow in an active fault. Geology doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G46254.1
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