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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 30, 2018

The mantle source of thermal plumes: Trace and minor elements in olivine and major oxides of primitive liquids (and why the olivine compositions don’t matter)

  • Keith Putirka EMAIL logo , Yan Tao , K.R. Hari , Michael R. Perfit , Matthew G. Jackson and Ricardo Arevalo
From the journal American Mineralogist


We estimate the mantle source compositions for mantle plumes and, by implication, Earth’s lower mantle by: (1) measuring trace (e.g, Sc, V, Cu) and minor (e.g., Ca, Mn, Ni) element concentrations of high-forsterite olivine grains from several plume localities, (2) estimating the parent liquid compositions from which they crystallized, (3) calculating mantle potential temperatures and degrees of partial melting, and (4) estimating trace element compositions of depleted and enriched mantle sources. Our sample set includes two continental flood basalt provinces (Emeishan and Deccan), a flood basalt that erupted in a continental rift setting (Baffin Island), our type example of a thermal mantle plume (Hawaii), and lavas from the Siqueiros Transform at the East Pacific Rise, which represent the mid-ocean ridge system. We also present olivine (Ol) compositions for peridotite xenoliths from Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico, U.S.A., which are commonly used as primary and secondary analytical standards. We find that trace elements in lava-hosted olivine grains are too far removed from their mantle source to provide anything but greatly hindered views of such. Olivine compositions reflect not only evolving liquid compositions (including partial melting conditions and later fractionation), but also evolving O1+liq partition coefficients, which mostly increase with decreasing T during crystallization. Mantle compositions, delimited by maximum forsterite contents and estimates of parental magmas (and experimentally determined partition coefficients) indicate that our selected plumes reflect some combination of (1) a depleted mantle source that is quite similar to that obtained by other methods and (2) a variably enriched plume source that is more enriched than current estimates of pyrolite. The enriched plume mantle sources can be explained remarkably well as a mixture of subducted mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB; Gale et al. 2013) and depleted MORB mantle (DM; Salters and Stracke 2004), with MORB:DMM ratios of 1:5 to 1:4. These ratios are most sensitive to estimates of melt fraction where plume parental magmas are last equilibrated with their mantle source, but are nonetheless consistent across a wide range of chemically very different elements, and estimates of MORB and DM obtained by very different means. Baffin Island is of particular interest. Like prior studies, we verify a high mantle potential temperature (Tp) of 1630 °C (compared to Tp = 1320–1420 °C for MORB from Cottrell and Kelley 2011 for O1 of Fo89.3–91.4). The Baffin source is also within error the same as DM with respect to trace elements, although still isotopically distinct; Baffin appears to be sourced in something that is akin to DMM that lies at the base of the mantle, where plumes acquire their excess heat. Thus while part of our analysis supports the concept of a “slab graveyard” at the bottom of the lower mantle (e.g., Wyession 1996), that cemetery is by no means ubiquitous at the CMB: subducted slabs are either unevenly interred, or efficiently excavated by later upwellings.


K. Putirka thanks both Eric Brown and Andrew Matzen for extremely thoughtful and detailed reviews that challenged us to think through our assumptions and conclusions. We also thank NSF for support to K. Putirka that indirectly helped support some of this work, in the form of grants NSF-EAR 1250322 and 1250323. M. Jackson acknowledges support from NSF-EAR 1624840. Yan Tao thanks NSF of China 41473051.

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Received: 2017-05-17
Accepted: 2018-04-23
Published Online: 2018-07-30
Published in Print: 2018-08-28

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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