Carbon isotope and abundance systematics of Icelandic geothermal gases, fluids and subglacial basalts with implications for mantle plume-related CO2 fluxes

TitleCarbon isotope and abundance systematics of Icelandic geothermal gases, fluids and subglacial basalts with implications for mantle plume-related CO2 fluxes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBarry PH, Hilton DR, Füri E., Halldórsson S.A, Grönvold K.
JournalGeochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta
Date Published2014/06
ISBN Number0016-7037

We report new carbon dioxide (CO2) abundance and isotope data for 71 geothermal gases and fluids from both high-temperature (HT > 150 °C at 1 km depth) and low-temperature (LT < 150 °C at 1 km depth) geothermal systems located within neovolcanic zones and older segments of the Icelandic crust, respectively. These data are supplemented by CO2 data obtained by stepped heating of 47 subglacial basaltic glasses collected from the neovolcanic zones. The sample suite has been characterized previously for He–Ne (geothermal) and He–Ne–Ar (basalt) systematics (Füri et al., 2010), allowing elemental ratios to be calculated for individual samples. Geothermal fluids are characterized by a wide range in carbon isotope ratios (δ13C), from −18.8‰ to +4.6‰ (vs. VPDB), and CO2/3He values that span eight orders of magnitude, from 1 × 104 to 2 × 1012. Extreme geothermal values suggest that original source compositions have been extensively modified by hydrothermal processes such as degassing and/or calcite precipitation. Basaltic glasses are also characterized by a wide range in δ13C values, from −27.2‰ to −3.6‰, whereas CO2/3He values span a narrower range, from 1 × 108 to 1 × 1012. The combination of both low δ13C values and low CO2 contents in basalts indicates that magmas are extensively and variably degassed. Using an equilibrium degassing model, we estimate that pre-eruptive basaltic melts beneath Iceland contain ∼531 ± 64 ppm CO2 with δ13C values of −2.5 ± 1.1‰, in good agreement with estimates from olivine-hosted melt inclusions ( Metrich et al., 1991) and depleted MORB mantle (DMM) CO2 source estimates ( Marty, 2012). In addition, pre-eruptive CO2 compositions are estimated for individual segments of the Icelandic axial rift zones, and show a marked decrease from north to south (Northern Rift Zone = 550 ± 66 ppm; Eastern Rift Zone = 371 ± 45 ppm; Western Rift Zone = 206 ± 24 ppm). Notably, these results are model dependent, and selection of a lower δ13C fractionation factor will result in lower source estimates and larger uncertainties associated with the initial δ13C estimate. Degassing can adequately explain low CO2 contents in basalts; however, degassing alone is unlikely to generate the entire spectrum of observed δ13C variations, and we suggest that melt–crust interaction, involving a low δ13C component, may also contribute to observed signatures. Using representative samples, the CO2 flux from Iceland is estimated using three independent methods: (1) combining measured CO2/3He values (in gases and basalts) with 3He flux estimates ( Hilton et al., 1990), (2) merging basaltic emplacement rates of Iceland with pre-eruptive magma source estimates of ∼531 ± 64 ppm CO2, and (3) combining fluid CO2 contents with estimated regional fluid discharge rates. These methods yield CO2 flux estimates from of 0.2–23 × 1010 mol a−1, which represent ∼0.1–10% of the estimated global ridge flux (2.2 × 1012 mol a−1; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998).

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