Sulfur geochemistry of hydrothermal waters in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. II. Formation and decomposition of thiosulfate and polythionate in Cinder Pool
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2000
Cinder Pool is an acid-sulfate-chloride boiling spring in Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The pool is unique in that its surface is partially covered with mm-size, black, hollow sulfur spherules, while a layer of molten sulfur resides at the bottom of the pool (18 m depth). The sulfur speciation in the pool was determined on four different days over a period of two years. Samples were taken to evaluate changes with depth and to evaluate the importance of the sulfur spherules on sulfur redox chemistry. All analyses were conducted on site using a combination of ion chromatography and colorimetric techniques.
Dissolved sulfide (H2S), thiosulfate (S2O32-), polythionates (SxO62-), and sulfate were detected. The polythionate concentration was highly variable in time and space. The highest concentrations were found in surficial samples taken from among the sulfur spherules. With depth, the polythionate concentrations dropped off. The maximum observed polythionate concentration was 8 µM. Thiosulfate was rather uniformly distributed throughout the pool and concentrations ranged from 35 to 45 µM. Total dissolved sulfide concentrations varied with time, concentrations ranged from 16 to 48 µM. Sulfate was relatively constant, with concentrations ranging from 1150 to 1300 µM. The sulfur speciation of Cinder Pool is unique in that the thiosulfate and polythionate concentrations are significantly higher than for any other acid-sulfate spring yet sampled in Yellowstone National Park. Complementary laboratory experiments show that thiosulfate is the intermediate sulfoxyanion formed from sulfur hydrolysis under conditions similar to those found in Cinder Pool and that polythionates are formed via the oxidation of thiosulfate by dissolved oxygen. This last reaction is catalyzed by pyrite that occurs as a minor constituent in the sulfur spherules floating on the pool’s surface. Polythionate decomposition proceeds via two pathways: (1) a reaction with H2S, yielding thiosulfate and elemental sulfur; and (2) by disproportionation to sulfate and thiosulfate.
This study demonstrates that the presence of a subaqueous molten sulfur pool and sulfur spherules in Cinder Pool is of importance in controlling the pathways of aqueous sulfur redox reactions. Some of the insights gained at Cinder Pool may be relevant to acid crater lakes where sulfur spherules are observed and variations in polythionate concentrations are used to monitor and predict volcanic activity.
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