Origin of basalts by hybridization in andesite-dominated arcs
Mafic magmas are common in subduction zone settings, yet their high density restricts their ascent to the surface. Once stalled in the crust, these magmas may differentiate, assimilate crust and other melts and mushes to produce hybridised intermediate magmas. The Soufriere Hills Volcano on Montserrat is a ‘type locality’ for these hybridisation processes and yet, just 3 km south of the crater, voluminous basalts have erupted from the South Soufriere Hills volcano within the same time period as the Soufriere Hills Volcano was erupting hybrid andesites (131 - 128 ka). Basaltic South Soufriere Hills magmas have 48 - 53 32 wt% SiO2 and 4 - 6 wt% MgO. They were hot (970 - 1160 °C), volatile-rich (melt inclusions contain up to 6.2 wt% H2O) and were stored at 8 – 13 km prior to eruption (based on olivine and pyroxene-hosted melt inclusion volatile geochemistry). Melt inclusions do not preserve basaltic liquids: they are andesitic to rhyolitic in composition, related to one another by a line of descent controlled by simple closed-system fractionation. Whole rock compositions, however, are best described by a hybridisation model involving “back”-mixing of andesitic to rhyolitic melts with mafic crystal phases such as magnetite, olivine, orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene. Phenocryst zoning illustrates repeated mixing events between evolved melts and mafic phenocrysts, which, when coupled with the heterogeneity of crystal compositions, strongly suggests that although the bulk composition is basalt (containing Fo80 olivine), they were assembled from disparate ingredients, likely derived from mafic crystal mushes and more evolved melt lenses of variable composition. The mixing events occur days to weeks prior to eruption. We propose that the South Soufriere Hills basaltic magmas, with their higher bulk density over andesites from neighbouring volcanoes, ultimately may have been eruptible owing to both the transtensional tectonics imposed by offshore grabens (related to the oblique subduction of the Lesser Antilles) and to surface unloading caused by large scale edifice collapse. Our observations support the idea that compositional changes in arcs might reflect not only changes in source compositions, but also effects caused by patterns in crustal strain and tectonics.