National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2023

The geology and geophysics of Lake Tarawera, New Zealand: implications for sublacustrine geothermal activity

Caratori Tontini, F., C.E.J. de Ronde, J. Black, V.K. Stucker, and S.L. Walker

J. Volcanol. Geoth. Res., 433, 107731, doi: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2022.107731, View online at Elsevier (external link) (2023)

The Okataina Volcanic Centre is a large caldera system in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand, which includes the Haroharo caldera, where the geothermally active Lake Tarawera is located at its southwestern boundary. Here, we show the results of high-resolution bathymetric mapping of the lake floor combined with gravity, magnetic and heat-flow surveys carried out over the lake, constrained by geochemical sampling. Our combined data elucidate the detailed geometry of the SW structural margin of the Haroharo caldera bisecting Lake Tarawera, and the relationship with the regional faults related with the Taupo Volcanic Zone rift.

In this context, the spatial distribution of heat-flow in Lake Tarawera appears controlled by fluid-focusing permeable zones associated with the structural lineaments and by peripheral, gravity-driven circulation of meteoric water associated with cooling of highly permeable rhyolite domes around the lakeshore. The structural boundary of the Haroharo caldera provides first-order control of heat-flow in the lake, with WNW striking normal faults to a lesser degree. An estimated total conductive output of ∼5.3 MW escaping through the floor of Lake Tarawera is refracted by the thick layer of sediments, providing an impermeable layer to the convection of fluids, which in turn diminishes heat output compared to other lakes in this region.

Our results contribute to modelling of hydrothermal circulation at the Okataina Volcanic Centre, and when integrated with data from the other lakes and the terrestrial geothermal output, it will contribute to determine the global geothermal output at this caldera system. The relationships to eruptive history and structural setting are the key to modelling similar geothermal system of other silicic calderas worldwide.

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