Millennia of magmatism recorded in crustal xenoliths from alkaline provinces in Southwest Greenland

Matthijs A. Smit, Tod E. Waight, Troels F.D. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Mantle-derived CO2-rich magma ascends rapidly through the lithospheric column, supporting upward transport of large mantle-xenoliths and xenocryst (>30 vol%) loads to the (sub-)surface within days. The regional magmatism during which such pulses occur is typically well characterized in terms of general duration and regional compositional trends. In contrast, the time-resolved evolution of individual ultramafic dyke and pipe systems is largely unknown. To investigate this evolution, we performed a geochemical and speedometric analysis of xenoliths from ultramafic (aillikite) dykes in two Neoproterozoic alkaline provinces in West Greenland: 1) Sarfartôq, which overlies Archean ultra-depleted SCLM and yielded ultra-deep mineral indicators, and 2) Sisimiut, where the SCLM is refertilized and deep xenoliths (>120 km) are lacking. We focused on the rare and understudied crustal xenoliths, which preserve a rich record of melt injection. The xenoliths are derived from 25–36 km depth and were transported to the sub-surface within 4±1h (Fe-in-rutile speedometry), during which they were exposed to the magmatic temperature of 1,015±50°C (Zr-in-rutile thermometry). Garnet major-element speedometry shows that before the xenolith-ascent stage the lower crust had already been exposed to a variety of magmas for 700 (Sarfartôq) and 7,100 (Sisimiut) years. The Sisimiut samples contain exotic carbonate- and sulfide-rich assemblages, which occurred during the early stages of melt infiltration. Absence of such exotic assemblages and the faster magmatic development at Sarfartôq are tentatively linked to higher decarbonation kinetics in the more depleted SCLM at this location. The data reveal the so far unrecognized pre-eruptive development of ultramafic systems. This stage involves non-steady state melt-silicate interaction between ascending magmas and the immediate SCLM wall-rock, during which the composition of both is modified. The progress and duration of this interaction is strongly influenced by the composition of the SCLM. Kinetics factors describing this interaction could thus be used to model the chemistry of aillikite and similar ultramafic magmas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • aillikite
  • crustal xenolith
  • geospeedometry
  • geothermometry
  • Greenland
  • lithospheric mantle

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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