Can magmatic water contents be estimated from clinopyroxene phenocrysts in some lavas? A case study with implications for the origin of the Azores Islands

Michael Turner, Simon Turner*, Nikita Mironov, Maxim Portnyagin, Kaj Hoernle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last decade there has been renewed interest in determining the water contents of basaltic magmas. A commonly applied method is analysis of H2O from melt inclusions in olivine. However, it is also well known that these can rapidly lose (or gain) H2O by diffusion. An alternative is to measure the H2O contents of clinopyroxene phenocrysts and use a partition coefficient (D) to estimate the original H2O content of the host magma. This approach is not without complications and several recent studies have attempted to assess the effects of diffusive loss of H2O from magmatic clinopyroxenes. In the ideal case, these crystals should be taken from rapidly cooled tephra or lapilli but such materials are not always available. In order to further assess the potential of using 5-10mm clinopyroxenes from lavas we undertook a detailed, multi-analytical investigation of clinopyroxenes from an ankaramite flow on Pico Island in the Azores. We conclude that these can be trusted to preserve (probably minimum) magmatic H2O contents if the H2O concentrations of multiple clinopyroxenes from a single sample form a linear correlation with the AlIV content that demonstrates a coupled substitution with little or no H2O loss. Conversely, if H2O contents decrease from core to rim whereas AlIV contents remain relatively constant then it is likely that those clinopyroxenes lost H2O during differentiation and/or cooling. We suspect that the olivine melt inclusions we analysed from Pico and São Miguel Islands also underwent diffusive loss of H2O. Using these criteria, we present clinopyroxene-derived magmatic H2O estimates for Corvo, Flores Faial, Pico and São Miguel Islands that range from 0.28 to 2.2wt%. When combined with published data these show that H2O contents often extend to higher values on the islands than along the adjacent mid-Atlantic ridge. These localised, elevated H2O contents can explain why the islands are emergent despite being situated away from the ridge and perhaps also the asymmetric nature of the bathymetry of the archipelago. It is possible that this H2O was recycled from material subducted very early on in Earth's history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-445
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2017


  • Azores
  • clinopyroxene
  • magmatic H2O contents
  • melt inclusions
  • SHRIMP-SI analysis


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