Early studies of 3He/4He variations in geothermal systems have generally attributed these fluctuations to either differences in the source of the magmatic 3He-rich helium or to local differences in the deep flux of magmatic 3He-rich helium. Kennedy et al. (1987), however, show that near-surface processes such as boiling and dilution may also drastically affect 3He 4He ratios of geothermal vapors. Helium isotope ratios were determined for several hot springs at Shoshone Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park for this study, along with other noble gas data. Stable isotope data and water and gas chemistry data for each spring were also compiled. The water chemistry indicates that there is one deep, hot thermal water in the area which is mixing with dilute meteoric water that has entered the system at depth. Spring HCO3- concentrations correlate with 3He 4He values, as in nearby Lower Geyser Basin. This correlation is attributed to variable amounts of deep dilution of thermal waters with a relatively cool water that inhibits boiling at depth, thus preventing the loss of CO2 (and therefore HCO3-) and magmatic He in the most diluted samples. Oxygen and hydrogen isotope data also support a boiling and dilution model, but to produce the observed fractionations, the boiling event would have to be extensive, with steam loss at the surface, whereas the boiling that affected the helium isotope ratios was probably a small scale event with steam loss at depth. It is possible that deep boiling occurred in the basin and that small amounts of steam escaped along fractures at about 500 m below the surface while all subsequently produced steam was lost near or at the surface. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Coupled variations in helium isotopes and fluid chemistry: Shoshone Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park