Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




Craig B. Forster


Previous studies of cooling igneous plutons did not consider the possible influence of sloping surface topography. Topographically-driven fluids in high relief terrain, however, are thought to interact with deep buoyancy-driven fluids to produce large lateral-flow systems up to 5 km long and 20 km long in silicic and andesitic volcanic terrain, respectively. In this study, a quantitative investigation of the interaction of topographically-driven and buoyancy-driven fluid flow is conducted through the use of a finite element numerical model to simulate the fluid flow and thermal regimes associated with a cooling igneous pluton in the presence of significant topographic relief. The system considered in this study is that of a pluton with dimensions 2 km by 3 km and an initial temperature of 980 °C centered beneath a mountain having relief of 1 km over a horizontal distance of 3 km. Simulation results indicate that the topographic component of flow interacts with buoyancy to produce two separate flow systems, a shallow topographically-driven flow system and a deeper convecting system. The resulting hydrothermal system evolves in a more complicated fashion than in flat topography cases. In addition, the existence of the shallow topographically-driven flow system partially masks the presence of the heat source by preventing fluids having the chemical signature of the deeper, hotter environment from reaching the surface. Cooling rate of the pluton is also increased and boiling is inhibited. These effects, however, are primarily a result of the pluton being injected into a cooler host rock. The host rock is cooler in the sloping topography case due to advective cooling prior to pluton injection. Model results also indicate that temperature beneath the mountain and the position of the zone of mixing remain relatively constant for almost 50,000 years. The stability of the temperature conditions and the position of the zone of mixing may increase the likelihood for the deposition of epithermal ore bodies in this region.



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