Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
Research article
01 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 01 Apr 2014

The ring-shaped thermal field of Stefanos crater, Nisyros Island: a conceptual model

M. Pantaleo and T. R. Walter

Abstract. Fumarole fields related to hydrothermal processes release the heat of the underground through permeable pathways. Thermal changes, therefore, are likely to depend also on the size and permeability variation of these pathways. There may be different explanations for the observed permeability changes, such as fault control, lithology, weathering/alteration, heterogeneous sediment accumulation/erosion and physical changes of the fluids (e.g., temperature and viscosity). A common difficulty, however, in surface temperature field studies at active volcanoes is that the parameters controlling the ascending routes of fluids are poorly constrained in general. Here we analyze the crater of Stefanos, Nisyros (Greece), and highlight complexities in the spatial pattern of the fumarole field related to permeability conditions. We combine high-resolution infrared mosaics and grain-size analysis of soils, aiming to elaborate parameters controlling the appearance of the fumarole field. We find a ring-shaped thermal field located within the explosion crater, which we interpret to reflect near-surface contrasts of the soil granulometry and volcanotectonic history at depth. We develop a conceptual model of how the ring-shaped thermal field formed at the Stefanos crater and similarly at other volcanic edifices, highlighting the importance of local permeability contrast that may increase or decrease the thermal fluid flux.