Continental Magmatism and Dynamic Topography

Change log

Isostasy, flexure and dynamic processes all influence the shape of the Earth’s surface. While the first two processes are well understood, dynamic topography remains controversial. On the continents, dynamic uplift is often expressed by positive long-wavelength gravity anomalies, radial drainage patterns, and slow seismic velocity anomalies within the upper mantle. Volcanic activity and elevated heat flow are also often observed. The aim of this study is to investigate the link between geochemical compositions of intracontinental magmatism and geophysical, geomorphological and geodetic observations of dynamic uplift. Three volcanic regions are considered in detail: western North America, northeast Brazil and Madagascar. The combined database includes 348 new whole-rock geochemical analyses. Rare earth element concentrations of mafic, asthenospheric-derived volcanic samples are exploited to calculate the depth and temperature of melt generation by inverse modelling. A sensitivity test of this modelling scheme is carried out. Lithospheric thickness and mantle temperature are independently determined from shear wave velocity models. Beneath western North America, a negative correlation between shear wave velocities at depths of 70–150 km and degree of melting is observed. Temperatures obtained from igneous compositions and from shear wave velocity profiles beneath volcanic fields closely agree. Melts are produced within, or close to, the spinel-garnet transition zone at depths shallower than $\sim70km,yieldingmantlepotentialtemperaturesofupto1380^{\circ}$C. Calculated uplift and heat flow based upon these results match observed surface elevation and heat flow measurements. In northeast Brazil, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Cenozoic phases of mafic igneous activity are recognised. Jurassic magmatic activity probably resulted from spinel-field melting at potential temperatures of $\sim1380^{\circ}C.ThisepisodeisassociatedwithregionalmagmatismduringbreakupoftheCentralAtlanticOcean.Cretaceouscompositionsrecordmeltingatpotentialtemperaturesof133070^{\circ}Catsimilardepths.ThisactivityislinkedtoextensionatthetimeofbreakupoftheequatorialandSouthAtlanticOcean.Cenozoicvolcanismcompriseslowdegreemeltswithinthespinelgarnettransitionzoneatambientpotentialtemperature.Shearwavevelocitymodelssupporttheseresults.CenozoicvolcanisminMadagascarispredominantlyalkalineandrecordssmalldegreemeltingwithminortemperatureanomalieswithinthespinelgarnettransitionzone.Raretholeiiticbasaltsrecordtemperaturesupto1360^{\circ}$C. Analysis of global and regional shear wave velocity models closely matches these results. The principal control on continental magmatism appears to be temperature anomalies within the upper mantle beneath thin lithosphere. Highest mantle potential temperatures correlate with largest dynamic uplift. Mantle potential temperatures $<1350^{\circ}$C are matched with minimal or negative dynamic topography.

White, Nicky
Maclennan, John
Dynamic topography, Basalt geochemistry, Intraplate volcanism
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
This work was funded by BP plc as part of its Parnaíba Basin Analysis Project.