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Concept: Mantle plume


Strong ground motions induce large dynamic stress changes that may disturb the magma chamber of a volcano, thus accelerating the volcanic activity. An underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct treat to the volcano. This study examined the dynamic stress changes of the magma chamber of Baekdusan (Changbaishan) that can be induced by hypothetical North Korean nuclear explosions. Seismic waveforms for hypothetical underground nuclear explosions at North Korean test site were calculated by using an empirical Green’s function approach based on a source-spectral model of a nuclear explosion; such a technique is efficient for regions containing poorly constrained velocity structures. The peak ground motions around the volcano were estimated from empirical strong-motion attenuation curves. A hypothetical M7.0 North Korean underground nuclear explosion may produce peak ground accelerations of 0.1684 m/s(2) in the horizontal direction and 0.0917 m/s(2) in the vertical direction around the volcano, inducing peak dynamic stress change of 67 kPa on the volcano surface and ~120 kPa in the spherical magma chamber. North Korean underground nuclear explosions with magnitudes of 5.0-7.6 may induce overpressure in the magma chamber of several tens to hundreds of kilopascals.

Concepts: Hawaii, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Lava, Volcanology, Caldera, Mantle plume


Paleo-climate records and geodynamic modelling indicate the existence of complex interactions between glacial sea level changes, volcanic degassing and atmospheric CO2, which may have modulated the climate system’s descent into the last ice age. Between ∼85 and 70 kyr ago, during an interval of decreasing axial tilt, the orbital component in global temperature records gradually declined, while atmospheric CO2, instead of continuing its long-term correlation with Antarctic temperature, remained relatively stable. Here, based on novel global geodynamic models and the joint interpretation of paleo-proxy data as well as biogeochemical simulations, we show that a sea level fall in this interval caused enhanced pressure-release melting in the uppermost mantle, which may have induced a surge in magma and CO2 fluxes from mid-ocean ridges and oceanic hotspot volcanoes. Our results reveal a hitherto unrecognized negative feedback between glaciation and atmospheric CO2 predominantly controlled by marine volcanism on multi-millennial timescales of ∼5,000-15,000 years.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Climate, Ocean, Volcano, Ice age, Magma, Mantle plume


Convergent margin volcanism is ultimately fed by magmas generated in the mantle, but the connection between the mantle and the eruption at the surface is typically obscured by cooling, crystallization and magma mixing within the crust. Geophysical techniques are also not very effective in the lower and middle crust, where seismic events are rare and resolution is generally poor. It has thus been unclear how fast mantle-derived magmas transit the crust and recharge crustal magma chambers. Here we use diffusion modelling of nickel zonation profiles in primitive olivines from diverse primary melts to show how mantle recharge may occur on timescales as short as eruptions themselves. In Irazú volcano in Costa Rica, magmas apparently ascend from their source region in the mantle through crust about 35 kilometres thick in just months to years, recharging hybrid basaltic andesites over the course of the eruption. These results show that large stratovolcanoes with shallow magma chambers may still preserve the deep record of their mantle origin in olivine crystals. This approach–documenting magma ascent timescales from the mantle beneath a convergent margin stratovolcano–can be applied to other eruptions that record magma mixing with recharge melts. Signs of volcanic unrest are typically monitored at the surface or upper crust; new efforts should look deeper, tracking magma movement from the base of the crust to the surface in the months to years before eruptions.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Mantle, Olivine, Lava, Mantle plume


The Yellowstone supervolcano is one of the largest active continental silicic volcanic fields in the world. An understanding of its properties is key to enhancing our knowledge of volcanic mechanisms and corresponding risk. Using a joint local and teleseismic earthquake P-wave seismic inversion, we unveil a basaltic lower-crustal magma body that provides a magmatic link between the Yellowstone mantle plume and the previously imaged upper-crustal magma reservoir. This lower-crustal magma body has a volume of 46,000 km(3), ~4.5 times larger than the upper-crustal magma reservoir, and contains a melt fraction of ~2%. These estimates are critical to understanding the evolution of bimodal basaltic-rhyolitic volcanism, explaining the magnitude of CO2 discharge, and constraining dynamic models of the magmatic system for volcanic hazard assessment.

Concepts: Igneous rock, Volcano, Magma, Basalt, Mantle, Mantle plume, Yellowstone Caldera


Mantle plumes upwelling beneath moving tectonic plates generate age-progressive chains of volcanos (hotspot chains) used to reconstruct plate motion. However, these hotspots appear to move relative to each other, implying that plumes are not laterally fixed. The lack of age constraints on long-lived, coeval hotspot chains hinders attempts to reconstruct plate motion and quantify relative plume motions. Here we provide40Ar/39Ar ages for a newly identified long-lived mantle plume, which formed the Rurutu hotspot chain. By comparing the inter-hotspot distances between three Pacific hotspots, we show that Hawaii is unique in its strong, rapid southward motion from 60 to 50 Myrs ago, consistent with paleomagnetic observations. Conversely, the Rurutu and Louisville chains show little motion. Current geodynamic plume motion models can reproduce the first-order motions for these plumes, but only when each plume is rooted in the lowermost mantle.

Concepts: Plate tectonics, Volcano, Mantle, Geophysics, Mantle convection, Mantle plume, Anahim hotspot


The magmatic activity (0-16 Ma) in Iceland is linked to a deep mantle plume that has been active for the past 62 My. Icelandic and northeast Atlantic basalts contain variable proportions of two enriched components, interpreted as recycled oceanic crust supplied by the plume, and subcontinental lithospheric mantle derived from the nearby continental margins. A restricted area in southeast Iceland-and especially the Öræfajökull volcano-is characterized by a unique enriched-mantle component (EM2-like) with elevated (87)Sr/(86)Sr and (207)Pb/(204)Pb. Here, we demonstrate through modeling of Sr-Nd-Pb abundances and isotope ratios that the primitive Öræfajökull melts could have assimilated 2-6% of underlying continental crust before differentiating to more evolved melts. From inversion of gravity anomaly data (crustal thickness), analysis of regional magnetic data, and plate reconstructions, we propose that continental crust beneath southeast Iceland is part of ∼350-km-long and 70-km-wide extension of the Jan Mayen Microcontinent (JMM). The extended JMM was marginal to East Greenland but detached in the Early Eocene (between 52 and 47 Mya); by the Oligocene (27 Mya), all parts of the JMM permanently became part of the Eurasian plate following a westward ridge jump in the direction of the Iceland plume.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Basalt, Mantle, Structure of the Earth, Iceland, Mantle plume


Large igneous provinces, as the surface expression of deep mantle processes, play a key role in the evolution of the planet. Here we analyse the geochemical record and timing of the Pacific Ocean Large Igneous Provinces and preserved accreted terranes to reconstruct the history of pulses of mantle plume upwellings and their relation with a deep-rooted source like the Pacific large low-shear velocity Province during the Mid-Jurassic to Upper Cretaceous. Petrological modelling and geochemical data suggest the need of interaction between these deep-rooted upwellings and mid-ocean ridges in pulses separated by ∼10-20 Ma, to generate the massive volumes of melt preserved today as oceanic plateaus. These pulses impacted the marine biota resulting in episodes of anoxia and mass extinctions shortly after their eruption.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Igneous rock, Canada, Cretaceous, Dinosaur, Mantle plume, Large igneous province


Subduction along the western margin of South America has been active since the Jurassic, but Andean orogeny started in the middle Cretaceous and was preceded by backarc extension in the Jurassic-Early Cretaceous. The timing and sequence of these events has remained unexplained. Here I present a four-dimensional buoyancy-driven whole-mantle subduction model implying that the ~200 Myr geological evolution can be attributed to sinking of a wide slab into a layered mantle, where upper-mantle wide-slab subduction causes backarc extension, while whole-mantle (upper+lower) wide-slab subduction drives Andean orogeny. The model reproduces the maximum shortening and crustal thickness observed in the Central Andes and their progressive northward and southward decrease. The subduction evolution coincides with a 29° decrease in slab dip angle, explaining ~200 km of Jurassic-present eastward migration of the Central Andean magmatic arc. Such arc migration negates proposed long-term subduction erosion and continental destruction, but is consistent with long-term crustal growth.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Bee, South America, Cretaceous, Andes, Orogeny, Mantle plume


Hotspots are anomalous regions of volcanism at Earth’s surface that show no obvious association with tectonic plate boundaries. Classic examples include the Hawaiian-Emperor chain and the Yellowstone-Snake River Plain province. The majority are believed to form as Earth’s tectonic plates move over long-lived mantle plumes: buoyant upwellings that bring hot material from Earth’s deep mantle to its surface. It has long been recognized that lithospheric thickness limits the rise height of plumes and, thereby, their minimum melting pressure. It should, therefore, have a controlling influence on the geochemistry of plume-related magmas, although unambiguous evidence of this has, so far, been lacking. Here we integrate observational constraints from surface geology, geochronology, plate-motion reconstructions, geochemistry and seismology to ascertain plume melting depths beneath Earth’s longest continental hotspot track, a 2,000-kilometre-long track in eastern Australia that displays a record of volcanic activity between 33 and 9 million years ago, which we call the Cosgrove track. Our analyses highlight a strong correlation between lithospheric thickness and magma composition along this track, with: (1) standard basaltic compositions in regions where lithospheric thickness is less than 110 kilometres; (2) volcanic gaps in regions where lithospheric thickness exceeds 150 kilometres; and (3) low-volume, leucitite-bearing volcanism in regions of intermediate lithospheric thickness. Trace-element concentrations from samples along this track support the notion that these compositional variations result from different degrees of partial melting, which is controlled by the thickness of overlying lithosphere. Our results place the first observational constraints on the sub-continental melting depth of mantle plumes and provide direct evidence that lithospheric thickness has a dominant influence on the volume and chemical composition of plume-derived magmas.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Volcano, Magma, Mantle, Asthenosphere, Mantle plume


In the Karoo large igneous province, the geochemical assessment of mantle source variability and structure is hampered by probable crustal contamination overprinting of compositionally diverse flood basalts. Mantle source characteristics have been defined only for exceptional, primitive rock types. Here I use a compiled dataset for over 800 samples to demonstrate that the abundance of Nb relative to Zr, Ti, and Y provides a useful geochemical tracer of mantle sources for variably contaminated rock types of the Karoo province. Variations in the relative abundance of Nb reveal emplacement of distinctive, Nb-undepleted and Nb-depleted magmas in the North Karoo and South Karoo sub-provinces, respectively, and clarify correlation between flood basalts and previously proposed mantle source components. Judging from plate tectonic reconstructions and the compositions of plausible mantle source components, the geochemical bilateral asymmetry in Karoo may reflect tapping of contrasting plume and upper mantle reservoirs in the two sub-provinces.

Concepts: Plate tectonics, Igneous rock, Petrology, Magma, Basalt, Granite, Crust, Mantle plume