Total CO2 budget estimate and degassing dynamics for an active stratovolcano: Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Distributions and concentrations of carbon dioxide being emitted from active volcanoes elucidate the subsurface controls on gas ascent from the source and provide important information regarding the extent and state of the magmatic system. The main goal of this study was to determine if degassing followed open- or closed-system dynamics, and to define a baseline for eruption monitoring of degassing across the volcanic edifice through the CO2 budget estimate from the combined results of two CO2 gas emission surveys from 2021 and 2022 on Turrialba volcano, Costa Rica. This was accomplished by utilizing a new method for estimating total carbon flux on and around this persistently degassing and intermittently erupting volcano by integrating fine and coarse spatial scales of measurements; including an analysis of carbon isotopes to determine the source contributions to the gas emissions. Approximately 99% (2287 ± 1719 t CO2 day−1) of magma-derived degassing activity is advective and concentrated at the summit crater, with a smaller, continuous component of ∼1% (23.73 ± 6.65 tonnes CO2 day−1) flank diffuse soil degassing. As the majority of the gas emissions from Turrialba are concentrated in the summit plume, the system is likely experiencing open-system degassing dynamics through one dominant degassing pathway. Though at relatively low levels, the locations and distributions of diffuse degassing on the volcanic flanks allow us to delineate subsurface features that likely reveal the extent of the magmatic system of the volcano. Volcanic CO2 outputs at Turrialba primarily concentrate along faults and fractures near the summit and across the flanks where permeable zones allow gas ascent, and with limited emissions elsewhere. The results of this study provide a baseline for monitoring future changes in the Turrialba magmatic system and demonstrate the potential for applying this method to other volcanic complexes, particularly those that are poorly monitored or where there is a greater prevalence of diffuse and distal degassing.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research