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EAS Seminar - Postglacial History in Chilean Altiplano

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm

Snee Hall, 2146 112 Hollister Drive

Dr. Carolina Munoz Saez
Post Doctoral Associate, Centro de Excelencia en Geotermia de los Andes (CEGA) Universidad de Chile

Dr. Munoz Saez studies the eruption dynamics of geyser systems and the evolution of hydrothermal systems. During her PhD. at the University of California Berkeley, she studied the chilean geyser field of El Tatio, concentrating on the thermodynamics conditions inside of geyser conduits, time series of the eruption circles and the properties of the geothermal deposits. In CEGA, Dr. Munoz Saez researches the evolution over time of hydrothermal systems, and the geometry underneath eruptive features through field studies and numerical modeling.

Title: The onset of hydrothermal activity and its implications for the postglacial history in Chilean Altiplano

The onset of the postglacial magmatic-hydrothermal activity in the Central Andes is poorly understood due to a lack of absolute ages. The El Tatio geothermal field, located in Northern Chile (~22o 20’ S, 4200 m above sea level), is considered one of the surface expressions of persistent activity in the Altiplano-Puna volcanic complex (APVC). It is the one of the largest and best-studied geothermal fields in South America, comprised of more than 200 active thermal features giving rise to one of the largest geyser fields in the world. Studying the extensive hydrothermal sediments (silica sinter) deposited on top of glacial and volcanic units, provides a unique opportunity to constrain the local volcanic activity and glacial retreat in the area.

New radiocarbon ages show that hydrothermal activity in El Tatio initiated in the late Pleistocene and has been continuous since its inception. Progression of ages and the type of hydrothermal features indicate spatial and temporal migration of fluid and/or variations in permeability. Stratigraphic relations and sinter ages suggest the glacier retreated before the Global Glacial Maximum. Correlation with moraine chronologies suggest that the hydrothermal activity started soon after deglaciation. The volcanic activity in the vicinity of El Tatio has been absent, yet the persistent hydrothermal discharge implies a long-lived magmatic heat source. Considering the current heat flow measurements and the ages, hydrothermal activity has advected a significant amount of heat from magmatic system.

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Event Type

Seminar, Colloquium


Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Engineering, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS), College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Carolyn Headlam

Contact Phone



Carolina Munoz Saez

Speaker Affiliation

Columbia LDEO and the University of Chile

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