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Hydrothermal alteration and diagenesis of terrestrial lacustrine pillow basalts: Coordination of hyperspectral imaging with laboratory measurements

We investigate an outcrop of ∼187 Ma lacustrine pillow basalts of the Talcott Formation exposed in Meriden, Connecticut, USA, focusing on coordinated analyses of one pillow lava to characterize the aqueous history of these basalts in the Hartford Basin. This work uses a suite of multidisciplinary measurements, including hyperspectral imaging, other spectroscopic techniques, and chemical and mineralogical analyses, from the microscopic scale up to the scale of an outcrop.

The phases identified in the sample are albite, large iron oxides, and titanite throughout; calcite in vesicles; calcic clinopyroxene, aegirine, and Fe/Mg-bearing clay in the rind; and fine-grained hematite and pyroxenes in the interior. Using imaging spectroscopy, the chemistry and mineralogy results extend to the hand sample and larger outcrop. From all of the analyses, we suggest that the pillow basalts were altered initially after emplacement, either by heated lake water or magmatic fluids, at temperatures of at least 400–600 °C, and the calcic clinopyroxenes and aegirine identified in the rind are a preserved record of that alteration. As the hydrothermal system cooled to slightly lower temperatures, clays formed in the rind, and, during this alteration, the sample oxidized to form hematite in the matrix of the interior and Fe3+ in the pyroxenes in the rind. During the waning stages of the hydrothermal system, calcite precipitated in vesicles within the rind. Later, diagenetic processes albitized the sample, with albite replacing plagioclase, lining vesicles, and accreting onto the exterior of the sample. This albitization or Na-metasomatism occurred when the lake within the Hartford Basin evaporated during a drier past climatic era, resulting in Na-rich brines.

As Ca-rich plagioclase altered to albite, Ca was released into solution, eventually precipitating as calcite in previously-unfilled vesicles, dominantly in the interior of the pillow. Coordinated analyses of this sample permit identification of the alteration phases and help synthesize the aqueous history of pillow lavas of the Talcott Formation. These results are also relevant to Mars, where volcanically-resurfaced open basin lakes have been found, and this Hartford Basin outcrop may be a valuable analog for any potential volcano–lacustrine interactions. The results can also help to inform the utility and optimization of potentially complementary, synergistic, and uniquely-suited techniques for characterization of hydrothermally-altered terrains.


Rebecca N. Greenberger, John F. Mustard, Edward A. Cloutis, Paul Mann, Janette H. Wilson, Roberta L. Flemming, Kevin M. Robertson, Mark R. Salvatore, Christopher S. Edwards

Published in:

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 171, 15 December 2015, Pages 174-200


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