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Keywords:

  • Central America;
  • nitrogen;
  • methane;
  • noble gases;
  • 129I;
  • geothermal

[1] Gases and fluids from four geothermal fields of Central America were analyzed for nitrogen, methane, and helium concentrations, isotopic composition, and 129I/I ratios in order to determine the sources of volatiles in these systems. Results for gas ratios and isotopic compositions for three of the fields are consistent with observations from other subduction zones. Ratios of N2/3He are only slightly higher than average arc values of 1 × 108 and the volcanic flux of N2 for the Central American systems is estimated to be between 1.6 × 108 and 3.2 × 108 mol/yr. Analysis of 129I/I ratios indicates the presence of a subducted organic component (25–30 Ma) as well as of a much older crustal component (40–65 Ma) throughout the study area. The magmatic flux of nitrogen and noble gases in Central America was then extrapolated to determine the degree of nitrogen recycling in island arc systems. Global N2 flux is estimated at 2.7 × 109 to 5.4 × 109 mol/yr, which is comparable to the global mid-ocean ridge flux, and represents 29–58% of the subducted sediment flux. This flux estimate is consistent across the N2–CO2–He systems and suggests that nearly all of the nitrogen supplied to the mantle wedge is devolatilized beneath the volcanic front. The Momotombo geothermal field of Nicaragua is characterized by exceptionally high excess nitrogen and methane values, and the close correlation of these two gases indicates a common source. While it is not uncommon for sedimentary basins with high heat flow to have excess nitrogen, the Momotombo geothermal field is unique in that the high N2/3He gases have essentially magmatic 3He/4He ratios. The high excess nitrogen component of Nicaragua is related to the older iodine end-member, pointing to a crustal origin. The crustal nitrogen contributions along the Nicaraguan portion of the arc are on the order of 2.2 × 108 mol N2/yr or roughly equal to the magmatic contribution along the entire Central American volcanic arc. The results for Momotombo indicate that the release of nitrogen during reorganization of island arc systems may have a significant impact on the global flux of volcanic nitrogen.