Plume-ridge interaction studied at the Galápagos spreading center: Evidence from 226Ra-230Th-238U and 231Pa-235U isotopic disequilibria

Thomas Find Kokfelt, Craig Lundstrom, Kaj Hoernle, Folkmar Hauff, Reinhard Werner

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New 238U-230Th-226Ra and 231Pa-235U disequilibria data measured by TIMS are presented for ridge-centered MORB glasses dredged during the R/V Sonne 158 cruise at the Galápagos or Cocos-Nazca Spreading Center (GSC) between 86.0°W and 92.3°W. The application of U-series isotopes to the GSC region, situated a few hundred kilometres to the north of the Galápagos hotspot, allows assessment of fundamental questions related to the dynamics of plume-ridge interaction. These include (1) the relationship between long-lived source variations, U-series disequilibria and extent of differentiation, (2) partial melting during solid upwelling, and (3) the nature and rates of plume-ridge mass transfer. The along axis U-series disequilibria variation show gradational patterns that locally are correlated with geochemical and isotopic parameters such as La/Sm, Tb/Yb, 206Pb/204Pb and 143Nd/144Nd as well as major element compositions. The correlation of (230Th)/(238U) with radiogenic isotopes and Tb/Yb provides constraints on the plume source influence on the melting process, reflecting an increase in the amount of melting at depth in the presence of garnet or aluminous clinopyroxene. Moreover, the correlation between U-series signatures, radiogenic isotopes, incompatible element abundance and MgO content indicates a causative relationship between the melting of plume source materials and how these lavas differentiate at shallow depths. We speculate that this involves loss of alkalis from ascending melts to shallow peridotite and crustal gabbro, resulting in increased olivine fractionation from the magmas. The U-series data place stringent constraints on the timing of plume-ridge mass transfer and thus distinguish whether mass transfer occurs by movement of melts or solid mantle. Within the likely conditions proposed by the model of (Braun and Sohn [EPSL 213 (2003): 417-430] and with knowledge of (231Pa)/(235U) and (230Th)/ (238U) observed in Galápagos Islands lavas [A. Saal, personal communication], we show that all 226Ra excess will be lost and the initial 231Pa and 230Th excesses will be largely decayed. Therefore, we conclude that the plume influence on the GSC lavas results from a solid mantle flow process instead of through migration of plume-derived melts to the ridge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-187
Number of pages23
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocos-Nazca Spreading Center
  • Galápagos hotspot and spreading center
  • Melt transport
  • Plume-ridge interaction
  • Uranium series disequilibria

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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