Evaluation of gas data from high-temperature fumaroles at Mount St. Helens, 1980-1982

  • Gerlach T
  • Casadevall T
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The Mount St. Helens fumarole gases show linear composition trends during periods of noneruptive degassing between September 1980 and October 1981. The trends are characterized by increasing H2O and decreasing CO2 and sulfur. Maximum fumarole temperatures also show a linear decrease during this period. High-temperature fumarole gases collected from the crater and dome between September 1980 and July 1982 are all H2O-rich (> 90%) with 1-10% CO2 and small amounts of H2S, SO2, H2, CO, HC, and HF. Trace amounts of COS and S2 are present, and occasional observations of minor CH4 appear to result from contamination or low-temperature reactions in sample vessels. The O2 fugacities of the gases remain near Ni-NiO during cooling. The low sulfur content of the gases obviates the need for extensive gas-rock oxygen exchange to maintain fO2's near Ni-NiO. A detailed thermodynamic analysis of 50 gas samples collected between September 1980 and December 1981 led to improved compositions for 22 samples. The gases were initially in a state of equilibrium, but disequilibrium modifications from atmospheric oxidation of H2 and, to a lesser extent, CO occurred within the upper portions of the fumarole vents. The last temperatures of equilibrium for the fumarole gases range from 800°C to 650°C and are nearly always higher than the collection temperatures. No evidence was found of disequilibrium admixture of surface waters; if such modifications of the fumarole gases occurred, the water must have been added at depth and have reequilibrated with the other gas species at magmatic or near-magmatic temperatures. The highest quality analytical data are obtained by field gas chromatograph measurements and from caustic soda bottle samples. Samples collected in evacuated bottles or by pumping through double stopcock tubes tend to be severely deficient in sulfur due to post-collection reactions between H2S and SO2. It is also necessary to infer the water content of the latter samples. © 1986.

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  • Terrence M. Gerlach

  • Thomas J. Casadevall

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