Mt. Etna plumbing system revealed by combined textural, compositional, and thermobarometric studies in clinopyroxenes

P. P. Giacomoni*, M. Coltorti, J. G. Bryce, M. F. Fahnestock, M. Guitreau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Coupled textural and in situ geochemical studies of clinopyroxene (cpx) phenocrysts, from both historical and recent eruptions of Mt. Etna volcano, provide a means to investigate the processes occurring in the deepest portion of the feeding system (>10 km depth). Five distinct textures were recognized: (1) normal oscillatory zoning, (2) normal zoning with Fe-rich rim, (3) sieve-textured core, (4) reverse oscillatory zoning, and (5) dusty rim. Electron microprobe analyses indicate an almost constant diopside–augite composition, with a slight enrichment in the enstatite for more recent erupted cpx. Core-to-rim compositional profiles, performed along the cpx, reveal distinct compositional characteristics. Normal oscillatory zoning is often characterized by a sharp increase in FeO (Δ ~ 2 wt%) accompanied by a drop in Al2O3 on the outermost 30 μm. Reverse oscillatory zoning, by contrast, exhibits a drop in FeO, Al2O3 (Δ ~ 2 wt%), and a remarkable crystal rim increase in MgO (up to 5 wt%). Similar compositional changes are evident in dusty-textured rims, which are characterized by dissolution edges and overgrowth containing glass pockets and channels. No significant compositional variations have been observed across crystals with sieve-textured cores. Trace element concentrations show enrichments in Sr, La, Zr, and REE, together with a decreasing La/Yb ratio (from ~7 to ~4) in rims of normally zoned crystals. Cpx with reverse zoning and dusty rims has low Sr, La, Zr, and REE contents toward crystal rims. Thermometers and barometers, based on equilibrium cpx-melt pairs, suggest that cpx cores start nucleating at 720 MPa, with the majority of them forming between 600 and 400 MPa but continuing to crystallize until very shallow depths (<100 MPa). Normal oscillatory-zoned phenocrysts surrounded by rims form at pressures shallower than 400 MPa, while reverse zoning and dusty rims occur between 400 and 500 MPa. Coupled petrologic and thermobarometric studies on both clinopyroxenes and plagioclases, associated with detailed textural and in situ geochemical analyses, are promising tools to reconstruct the entire magma ascent path beneath open-system volcanoes. At Mt. Etna, two distinct processes could account for the observed textures: Fe-rich rims in normal oscillatory-zoned crystals can be related to decompression-induced crystallization, while reverse zoning and dusty rims can be produced by mixing with a more basic magma at 400–500 MPa (i.e., ~10 km). Textural features are not restricted to a particular evolutionary phase of the volcano, which suggest that the deep feeding system has not changed significantly since the first alkaline volcanic phase.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalContributions to Mineralogy and Petrology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Mt. Etna
  • Cpx phenocryst Textures
  • In situ trace elements
  • Geothermobarometers
  • Feeding system


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