Delivery of deep-sourced, volatile-rich plume material to the global ridge system
Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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Gibson, S., & Richards, M. (2018). Delivery of deep-sourced, volatile-rich plume material to the global ridge system. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 499 205-218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2018.07.028
The global mid-ocean ridge (MOR) system represents a major site for outgassing of volatiles from Earth’s mantle. The amount of H2O released via eruption of mid-ocean ridge basalts varies along the global ridge system and greatest at sites of interaction with mantle plumes. These deep-sourced thermal anomalies affect approximately one-third of all MORs -- as reflected in enrichment of incompatible trace elements, isotope signatures and elevated ridge topography (excess melting) – but the physical mechanisms involved are controversial. The “standard model” involves solid-state flow interaction, wherein an actively upwelling plume influences the divergent upwelling generated by a mid-ocean ridge so that melting occurs at higher pressures and in greater amounts than at a normal spreading ridge. This model does not explain, however, certain enigmatic features including linear volcanic ridges radiating from the active plume to the nearby MOR. Examples of these are the Wolf-Darwin lineament (Galápagos), Rodrigues Ridge (La Réunion), Discovery Ridge (Discovery), and numerous smaller ridge-like structures associated with the Azores and Easter-Sala y Gómez hot spots. An important observation from our study is that fractionation-corrected MORB with exceptionally-high H2O contents (up to 1.3 wt. %) are found in close proximity to intersections of long-lived plume-related volcanic lineaments with spreading centres. New algorithms in the rare-earth element inversion melting (INVMEL) program allow us to simulate plume-ridge interactions by mixing the compositions of volatile-bearing melts generated during both active upwelling and passively-driven corner-flow. Our findings from these empirical models suggest that at sites of plume-ridge interaction, moderately-enriched MORBs (with 0.2 - 0.4 wt. % H2O) result from mixing of melts formed by: (i) active upwelling of plume material to minimum depths of ~35 km; and (ii) those generated by passive melting at shallower depths beneath the ridge. The most volatile-rich MORB (0.4-1.3 wt. % H2O) may form by the further addition of up to 25% of “deep” small-fraction plume stem melts that contain >3 wt. % H2O. We propose that these volatile-rich melts are transported directly to nearby MOR segments via pressure-induced, highly-channelized flow embedded within a broader "puddle" of mostly solid-state plume material, spreading beneath the plate as a gravity flow. This accounts for the short wavelength variability (over 10’s of km) in geochemistry and bathymetry that is superimposed on the much larger (many 100’s of km) “waist width” of plume-influenced ridge. Melt channels may constitute a primary delivery mechanism for volatiles from plume stems to nearby MORs and, in some instances, be expressed at the surface as volcanic lineaments and ridges. The delivery of small-fraction hydrous melts from plume stems to ridges via a two-phase (melt-matrix) regime implies that a parallel, bimodal transport system is involved at sites of plume-ridge interaction. We estimate that the rate of emplacement of deep-sourced volatile-rich melts in a channels beneath the volcanic lineaments is high and involves 10’s of thousands of km3/Ma. Since mantle plumes account for more than half of the melt production at MORs our findings have important implications for our understanding of deep Earth volatile cycling.
This research was funded by NERC grant RG57434 (SAG) and NSF grant EAR#1615203 (MAR).
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/H01053X/1)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2018.07.028
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/284579
Attribution 4.0 International
Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/