Correlation of Geothermal Springs with Sub-Surface Fault Terminations Revealed by High- Resolution, UAV-Acquired Magnetic Data

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Geological Sciences

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There is widespread agreement that geothermal springs in extensional geothermal systems are concentrated at fault tips and in fault interaction zones where porosity and permeability are dynamically maintained (Curewitz and Karson, 1997; Faulds et al., 2010). Making these spatial correlations typically involves geological and geophysical studies in order to map structures and their relationship to springs at the surface. Geophysical studies include gravity and magnetic surveys, which are useful for identifying buried, intra-basin structures, especially in areas where highly magnetic, dense mafic volcanic rocks are interbedded with, and faulted against less magnetic, less dense sedimentary rock. High-resolution magnetic data can also be collected from the air in order to provide continuous coverage. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are well-suited for conducting these surveys as they can provide uniform, low-altitude, high-resolution coverage of an area without endangering crew. In addition, they are more easily adaptable to changes in flight plans as data are collected, and improve efficiency. We have developed and tested a new system to collect magnetic data using small-platform UAS. We deployed this new system in Surprise Valley, CA, in September, 2012, on NASA's SIERRA UAS to perform a reconnaissance survey of the entire valley as well as detailed surveys in key transition zones. This survey has enabled us to trace magnetic anomalies seen in ground-based profiles along their length. Most prominent of these is an intra-basin magnetic high that we interpret as a buried, faulted mafic dike that runs a significant length of the valley. Though this feature lacks surface expression, it appears to control the location of geothermal springs. All of the major hot springs on the east side of the valley lie along the edge of the high, and more specifically, at structural transitions where the high undergoes steps, bends, or breaks. The close relationship between the springs and structure terminations revealed by this study is unprecedented. Collecting magnetic data via UAS represents a new capability in geothermal exploration of remote and dangerous areas that significantly enhances our ability to map the subsurface


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