Caldera Hydrology

The Valles Caldera hydrology has two domains: the shallow water system and the deep water system. The deep water system is referred to as a geothermal (hot rock) water system. Water infiltrates the soil, rocks and fractures and makes its way down to the hot rocks surrounding the magma chamber, taking thousands of years for the journey. The deep hydrothermal waters absorb heat from the surrounding rocks by conduction and the water begins to move upward along fracture zones aided by the process of convection. Depending on the depth and location the water can be heated up to 300 degrees C and as the less dense water rises, it dissolves minerals from the surrounding rocks. At the right temperature and pressure the water boils, creating fumaroles as seen at Sulphur Springs in the Jemez Mountains. Another interesting geologic formation created by the percolating hot water is Soda Dam, located a few miles from Jemez Springs. The Soda Dam formation is still growing as the heated waters that have picked up dissolved minerals reach the surface and degas (CO2) as well as dropping their mineral load (precipitates). The rock that is formed is called travertine. Scientists have discovered a helium isotope (He-3) in the waters percolating up at Soda Dam. This is the same Helium isotope that is found at the deep sea vents and is associated with contact with deep mantle plumes.

Video Clip from Valles Caldera: The Science

Researcher's Bio: 

You could say that Dr. Laura Crossey has a lot on her plate these days. She is the department chair of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of New Mexico, but the truth is Dr. Crossey uses the Earth as her classroom and lab. For example, Dr. Crossey and Dr. Karl Karlstrom created one of the largest classrooms on the planet. It is a Grand Canyon rim trail called the “Trail of Time at the South Rim.”  Thousands of students of all ages learn about the dynamic earth and how the canyon was formed over millions of years. Often Dr. Crossey is out of cell phone range in the depths of the Grand Canyon rafting down the Colorado River studying water and Earth materials. In the Valles Caldera, Dr. Crossey has students carrying out research on water quality and using geochemistry to understand the hydrology of the Valles Caldera watershed. The students explore the interactions using technical equipment and a lot of hard work. When talking about the Earth systems Dr. Crossey quotes Neil Young, “Rust Never Sleeps." The Valles Caldera has experienced volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and climate changes over time; the Earth processes never stop.