In the Marie Byrd Land volcanic province, peralkaline and metaluminous trachytes, phonolites, and rhyolites occur in 18 large shield volcanoes that are closely associated in time and space. They are arrayed radially across an 800 km wide structural dome, with the oldest at the crest and the youngest around the flanks. Several lines of evidence suggest that these rocks evolved via open-system, polybaric fractionation. We have used mass balance modeling of major elements together with trace-element data and mineral chemistry to help explain the evolution of this diverse suite of felsic rocks, which appear to have been generated coevally in isolated magma chambers, and erupted close to each other in patterns related to tectonic uplift and extension within the West Antarctic rift system. Isotopic and trace-element data indicate that this occurred with only minimal crustal contamination. We focus on volcanoes of the Executive Committee Range and Mount Murphy, where we find good representation of basalts and felsic rocks within a small area. Our results suggest that the felsic rocks were derived from basaltic magmas that differentiated at multiple levels during their passage to the surface: first to ferrogabbroic compositions near the base of the lithosphere, then to intermediate compositions near the base of the crust, and finally to felsic compositions in mid- to upper crustal reservoirs. The high-pressure history has been largely masked by low-pressure processes. The best indications of a high-pressure history are the mineral phases in cumulate nodules and their correlation with modeling results, with REE anomalies, and with the composition of an unusual gabbroic intrusion. Silica saturation characteristics are believed to have originated in magma chambers near the base of the crust, via fractionation of variable proportions of kaersutite and plagioclase. Development of peralkalinity in felsic rocks took place in upper crustal reservoirs by fractionating a high ratio of plagioclase to clinopyroxene under conditions of low pH2O. With increasing pH2O, the ratio plagioclase/clinopyroxene in the fractionated assemblage decreases and metaluminous liquids resulted. Crustal contamination seems to have had a role in suppressing peralkalinity, and was probably a factor in the origin of high-silica metaluminous rhyolite, but metaluminous rocks are uncommon. The volume and diversity of felsic rocks were probably enhanced by the structure of the lithosphere, the persistence of plume activity, and the immobility of the Antarctic plate. Mechanical boundaries at the base of the lithosphere and crust, and within the crust, appear to have acted as filters, trapping magmas at multiple levels, and prolonging the fractionation process. Final volumes would have been further enhanced by repeated refluxing of the same magma chambers, controlled by plume activity and plate immobility.
Additional publication details
Polybaric evolution of phonolite, trachyte, and rhyolite volcanoes in Eastern Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica: Controls on peralkalinity and silica saturation