Neon isotopes constrain convection and volatile origin in the Earth's mantle


Identifying the origin of primordial volatiles in the Earth's mantle provides a critical test between models that advocate magma-ocean equilibration with an early massive solar-nebula atmosphere and those that require subduction of volatiles implanted in late accreting material. Here we show that neon isotopes in the convecting mantle, resolved in magmatic CO2 well gases, are consistent with a volatile source related to solar corpuscular irradiation of accreting material. This contrasts with recent results that indicated a solar-nebula origin for neon in mantle plume material, which is thought to be sampling the deep mantle. Neon isotope heterogeneity in different mantle sources suggests that models in which the plume source supplies the convecting mantle with its volatile inventory require revision. Although higher than accepted noble gas concentrations in the convecting mantle may reduce the need for a deep mantle volatile flux, any such flux must be dominated by the neon (and helium) isotopic signature of late accreting material.

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Figure 1: Study area.
Figure 2: Correlation of measured 21Ne/22Ne, 20Ne/22Ne with 4He/22Ne and 40Ar/22Ne.
Figure 3: Intersection of a two-component air+crust mixture with the MORB air–mantle mixing line defines the mantle Ne isotopic endmember.
Figure 4: Mantle noble gas isotopes relative to 36Ar normalized to the solar abundance, relative to 36Ar (Table 2).
Figure 5: Resolving endmember compositions from simple mixing.


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Access and permission to sample was by permission of BP (the field is now owned by Oxy) and the Bravo dome field manager, D. Holcomb. Sampling from the West Bush dome was by permission of Amerada Hess. H. Baur provided laboratory support. We thank F. Albarède, D. Porcelli, A. Halliday, A. Hofmann, C. Hall, J. Gilmour, G. Holland, D. Murphy, R. Yokochi and I. Tolstikhin for discussions and critical comments that have improved this Article. This work was funded by the Zurich ETH and NERC.

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Correspondence to Chris J. Ballentine.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1

A single figure showing the results of a chi-squared minimization, modeling the deviation of the best fit data wedge for a variety of model mantle Ne isotopic values. (PDF 34 kb)

Supplementary Data

Contains detail of the chi-squared test used to test the robustness of the Ne isotope intersect with the MORB-air line. Also contains equations for the planes defined by the data, and details of phase fractionation modelling to assess the limits of this form of fractionation process. Supplementary Figure Legend 1, and Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Table 2 are also included. (DOC 112 kb)

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Ballentine, C., Marty, B., Sherwood Lollar, B. et al. Neon isotopes constrain convection and volatile origin in the Earth's mantle. Nature 433, 33–38 (2005).

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