Mantle and crustal contributions to continental flood volcanism


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Arndt, N.T., Czamanske, G.K., Wooden, J.L. and Fedorenko, V.A., 1993. Mantle and crustal contributions to continental flood volcanism. In: M.J.R. Wortel, U. Hansen and R. Sabadini (Editors), Relationships between Mantle Processes and Geological Processes at or near the Earth's Surface. Tectonophysics, 223: 39-52. Most continental flood basalts are enriched in incompatible elements and have high initial 87Sr/86Sr ratios and low ??{lunate}Nd values. Many are depleted in Nb and Ta. The commonly-held view that these characteristics are inherited directly from a source in metasomatized lithospheric mantle is inconsistent with the following arguments: (1) thermomechanical modelling demonstrates that flood basalt magmas come mainly from an asthenospheric or plume source, with minimal direct melting of the continental lithospheric mantle. The low water contents of most flood basalts argue against proposals that hydrous lithosphere was the source. (2) Lithospheric mantle normally has low concentrations of incompatible elements, and chondrite-normalized Nb and Ta contents similar to those of other incompatible elements. Such material cannot be the unmodified source of Nb-Ta-depleted basalts such as those from the Karoo, Ferrar, or Columbia River provinces. We suggest there are two main controls on the compositions of continental flood basalts. The first is lithospheric thickness, which strongly influences the depth and degree of mantle melting of a plume or asthenospheric source, and thus has an important influence on the composition of primary magmas. All liquids formed by partial melting of peridotite at sub-lithosphere depths are highly magnesian (20-25 wt.% MgO) but have variable trace-element contents. Where the lithosphere is thick, the source melts at high pressure, garnet is present, the degree of melting is low, and trace-element concentrations are high. This type of magma evolves to produce the high-Ti type of continental flood basalt. Where the lithosphere is thinner, the source ascends to shallower levels, the degree of melting is greater, garnet may be exhausted, and the magmas have lower trace-element contents; these magmas yield low-Ti basalts. The second control is processing of magmas in chambers that were periodically replenished and tapped, while continuously fractionating and assimilating their wall rocks. The uniform compositions of basalts that evolve in such chambers are far removed from those of their picritic parental magmas. Major elements in continental flood basalts reflect control by olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase crystallization, and this assemblage places the magma chambers at crustal depth. We believe that trace-element and isotopic compositions are also buffered, and that the erupted basalts represent steady-state liquids tapped from these magma chambers. These processes impose a crustal signature on the magmas, as expressed most strongly in the concentrations of incompatible elements (e.g., Nb-Ta anomalies) and their isotopic characteristics. ?? 1993.

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Mantle and crustal contributions to continental flood volcanism
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