Heat flow in the Coso Geothermal Area, Inyo County, California
Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
Copyright 1980 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth (1978–2012)
Volume 85, Issue B5, pages 2411–2424, 10 May 1980
How to Cite
1980), Heat flow in the Coso Geothermal Area, Inyo County, California, J. Geophys. Res., 85(B5), 2411–2424, doi:10.1029/JB085iB05p02411.(
- Issue published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 20 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 13 FEB 1980
- Manuscript Received: 19 MAR 1979
Obvious surface manifestations of an anomalous concentration of geothermal resources at the Coso geothermal area, Inyo County, California, include fumarolic activity and associated hydrothermally altered rocks. Pleistocene volcanic rocks associated with the geothermal activity include 38 rhyolite domes occupying a north trending structural and topographic ridge and numerous basaltic cinder cones and lava flows partly surrounding its southern half. In an investigation of the thermal regime of this Basin and Range geothermal area, temperature measurements were made in 25 shallow and 1 intermediate depth borehole. Geothermal gradients ranged from 25.3°C/km to 906.°C/km. The high gradients arise from convecting hot water and former convective transport of heat by dikes that fed the domes and flows. Thermal conductivity measurements were made on 312 samples from cores and drill cuttings. The resultant terrain-corrected heat flow values range from 1.6 to 23. HFU. The actual process by which heat is transferred is rather complex; however, the heat flow determinations can be divided into two groups. The first group, less than 4.0 HFU, are indicative of regions with primarily conductive regimes, although deep-seated mass transfer is implied. The second group, greater than 4.0 HFU, are characteristic of regions with considerable convective heat transfer in the shallow subsurface. The general shapes of the 3-and 5-HFU contours in the upper 35 m of the subsurface are essentially aligned with the major regional fault zones, suggesting that the high heat flows are the result of convective heat transfer caused by circulation of hot groundwater in these vertically permeable subsurface channels. The high heat flow values (>10 HFU) are essentially restricted to the rhyolite dome field and the associated surface thermal manifestations. Heat transferred by convection of water would be rapidly exhausted if it were not intermittently supplied with heat energy from depth; therefore the heat flow data substantiate the concept that the surface hydrothermal activity and associated volcanic rocks are products of a long-lived magmatic system that has periodically erupted lava during the past 0.3–1.0 m.y. This magmatic system is the crustal heat source for the present-day Coso geothermal system (1 HFU = 41.87 mW/m2).