Precipitation of Laumontite with Quartz, Thenardite, and Gypsum at Sespe Hot Springs, Western Transverse Ranges, California1

Thane H. McCulloh2, Virgil A. Frizzell Jr.3, Richard J. Stewart4 and Ivan Barnes3
2 U.S. Geological Survey, 1107 N.E. 45th Street, Seattle, Washington 98105
3 U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, California 94025
4 Department of Geological Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195
1 Printed with the permission of the Director, U.S. Geological Survey.

Abstract: Well-crystallized laumontite has been found for the first time precipitating naturally at the earth's surface at temperatures of 89° to 43°C as a component of gray to white coatings and efflorescences on exterior surface and as precipitates on interior fractures of stones and blocks lining Hot Springs Creek immediately downstream from Sespe Hot Springs, Ventura County, California. X-ray powder diffraction, scanning electron microscope (SEM), and electron microprobe analyses show thenardite to be the dominant phase in the exterior coatings, in association with minor microcrystalline (<50 µm) laumontite and gypsum. Macrocrystalline (>1 mm) laumontite is the dominant phase in interior fracture coatings and is associated with quartz, potassium feldspar, and gypsum. Trace amounts of smectite(?), halite, a mercury sulfide, an iron sulfide, an iron-bearing mineral (possibly an oxide or carbonate), and a copper mineral are also present. Zeolites other than laumontite have not been seen, and carbonate minerals are either entirely or nearly absent. SEM textures indicate nonreactive intergrowths of laumontite, quartz, potassium feldspar, and gypsum. Unbroken laumontite crystals are generally euhedral or have skeletal growth characteristics and exhibit sharp, fresh, non-corroded faces, edges, and corners.

The water issuing from the hottest and largest spring is 89° has a pH of 7.74, 1200 mg/liter total dissolved solids, and contains Na+, Cl, SO42−, and H4SiO4 as the dominant dissolved species. Computations indicate that the water is supersaturated with respect to laumontite, quartz, chlorite, and prehnite and is slightly undersaturated with respect to calcite and noncrystalline silica. Water-dominated water-rock interaction is indicated by isotopic analyses. The δO18 composition expectable on the basis of the −81‰ δD composition is − 11.38‰ instead of the −9.5‰ actually found (all referred to SMOW). The water chemistry suggests that the subsurface water source may have a temperature of 125°−135°C. This temperature range, together with the regionally low geothermal gradient, implies that the source is probably 3550 to 3900 m beneath the springs in fractured and permeable Mesozoic and older plutonites and gneisses.

The discovery of laumontite crystallizing at atmospheric pressure and 43°C (or lower) provides important insight into the processes responsible for burial diagenetic laumontite and a valuable perspective on the zeolite metamorphic facies.

Key Words: Diagenesis • Efflorescence • Hot spring • Isotope analysis • Laumontite • Water • Zeolite

Clays and Clay Minerals; October 1981 v. 29; no. 5; p. 353-364; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1981.0290505
© 1981, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)