Learning about Hydrothermal Volcanic Activity by Modeling Induced Geophysical Changes


Motivated by ongoing efforts to understand the nature and the energy potential of geothermal resources, we devise a coupled numerical model (hydrological, thermal, mechanical), which may help in the characterization and monitoring of hydrothermal systems through computational experiments. Hydrothermal areas in volcanic regions arise from a unique combination of geological and hydrological features which regulate the movement of fluids in the vicinity of magmatic sources capable of generating large quantities of steam and hot water. Numerical simulations help in understanding and characterizing rock-fluid interaction processes and the geophysical observations associated with them. Our aim is the quantification of the response of different geophysical observables (i.e., deformation, gravity, and magnetic fields) to hydrothermal activity on the basis of a sound geological framework (e.g., distribution and pathways of the flows, the presence of fractured zones, caprock). A detailed comprehension and quantification of the evolution and dynamics of the geothermal systems and the definition of their internal state through a geophysical modeling approach are essential to identify the key parameters for which the geothermal system may fulfill the requirements to be exploited as a source of energy. For the sake of illustration only, the numerical computations are focused on a conceptual model of the hydrothermal system of Vulcano Island by simulating a generic 1-year unrest and estimating different geophysical changes. We solved (i) the mass and energy balance equations of flow in porous media for temperature, pressure and density changes, (ii) the elastostatic equation for the deformation field and (iii) the Poisson’s equations for gravity and magnetic potential fields. Under the model assumptions, a generic unrest of 1-year engenders on the ground surface low amplitude changes in the investigated geophysical observables, that, being above the accuracies of the modern state-of-the-art instruments, could be traced by continuously running multi-parametric monitoring networks. Devising multidisciplinary and easy-to-use computational experiments enable us to learn how the hydrothermal system responds to unrest and which fingerprints it may leave in the geophysical signals.

DOI: 10.3389/feart.2017.00041

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@inproceedings{Currenti2017LearningAH, title={Learning about Hydrothermal Volcanic Activity by Modeling Induced Geophysical Changes}, author={Gilda Currenti and Rosalba Napoli}, booktitle={Front. Earth Sci.}, year={2017} }