Interpreting chemical compositions of small scale basaltic systems

a review

Lucy E. McGee, Ian E.M. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Small scale basaltic magmatic systems occur in all of the major tectonic environments of planet Earth and are characteristically expressed at the Earth's surface as fields of small monogenetic cones. The chemical compositions of the materials that make up these cones reflect processes of magma generation and differentiation that occur in their plumbing system. The volumes of magmas involved are very small and significantly their compositional ranges reveal remarkably complex processes which are overwhelmed or homogenized in larger scale systems. Commonly, compositions are basaltic, alkalic and enriched in light rare earth elements and large ion lithophile elements, although the spectrum extends from highly enriched nephelinites to subalkalic and tholeiitic basalts. Isotopic analyses of rocks from volcanic fields almost always display compositions which can only be explained by the interaction of two or more mantle sources. Ultimately their basaltic magmas originate by small scale melting of mantle sources. Compositional variety is testament to melting processes at different depths, a range of melting proportions, a heterogeneous source and fractionation, magma mixing and assimilation within the plumbing system that brings magmas to the surface. The fact that such a variety of compositions is preserved in a single field shows that isolation of individual melting events and their ascent is an important and possibly defining feature of monogenetic volcanism, as well as the window their chemical behavior provides into the complex process of melt generation and extraction in the Earth's upper mantle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume325
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Basalt geochemistry
  • Mantle melting
  • Small-scale volcanism

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