Life cycle of a geyser discharge apron: Evidence from Waikite Geyser, Whakarewarewa geothermal area, North Island, New Zealand

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Sedimentary Geology, ISSN: 0037-0738, Vol: 236, Issue: 1, Page: 77-94

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Jones, Brian; Renaut, Robin W.; Owen, R. Bernhart
Elsevier BV; Elsevier
Earth and Planetary Sciences; Geyser; New Zealand; Opal-A sinter; Waikite
article description
Waikite, a geyser located in the Whakarewarewa geothermal area on the North Island, New Zealand, has a history of eruptive–dormancy cycles that have been attributed to natural and anthropogenic causes. The last cycle involved an active period from ~ 1932 to 1968/69 that was followed by a period of dormancy that continues today. Such cycles are important because they control the temporal development of the discharge apron. When the geyser is active, growth of the discharge apron is dictated by the precipitation of opal-A, which is controlled by factors such as discharge patterns, water chemistry, pH, temperature, rate of cooling, and the resident microbiota. With dormancy, conditions change radically because water no longer flows down the discharge apron. Instead, the discharge apron lapses into a phase of degradation that, on Waikite, is evident from (1) deflation of the apron surface, (2) blocks splaying off the apron margins along margin-parallel fractures, (3) tension fractures, (4) saucer-shaped collapse zones, (5) increasingly unstable surfaces resulting from subsurface opal-A dissolution, (6) fractures, from which steam and other gases emanate, and (7) incursion of native vegetation around the edge of the apron and on the distal parts of the discharge apron. When the geyser becomes active again, silica precipitation will resume and the discharge apron will once again accrete vertically and expand laterally. Analysis of the Waikite system shows that successions that develop on geyser discharge aprons are formed of unconformity-bounded packages of sinter that reflect the eruptive–dormancy history of the parent geyser.