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Seawater subduction controls the heavy noble gas composition of the mantle

Nature volume 441, pages 186191 (11 May 2006) | Download Citation

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Abstract

The relationship between solar volatiles and those now in the Earth's atmosphere and mantle reservoirs provides insight into the processes controlling the acquisition of volatiles during planetary accretion and their subsequent evolution. Whereas the light noble gases (helium and neon) in the Earth's mantle preserve a solar-like isotopic composition, heavy noble gases (argon, krypton and xenon) have an isotopic composition very similar to that of the modern atmosphere, with radiogenic and (in the case of xenon) solar contributions. Mantle noble gases in a magmatic CO2 natural gas field have been previously corrected for shallow atmosphere/groundwater and crustal additions. Here we analyse new data from this field and show that the elemental composition of non-radiogenic heavy noble gases in the mantle is remarkably similar to that of sea water. We challenge the popular concept of a noble gas ‘subduction barrier’—the convecting mantle noble gas isotopic and elemental composition is explained by subduction of sediment and seawater-dominated pore fluids. This accounts for 100% of the non-radiogenic argon and krypton and 80% of the xenon. Approximately 50% of the convecting mantle water concentration can then be explained by this mechanism. Enhanced recycling of subducted material to the mantle plume source region then accounts for the lower ratio of radiogenic to non-radiogenic heavy noble gas isotopes and higher water content of plume-derived basalts.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Oxy for permission to sample the Bravo Dome Field, Amerada Hess for permission to sample West Bravo Dome, and M. Cassidy for logistics and field assistance. We thank D. Blagburn and B. Clementson for laboratory support. We also thank J. Gilmour for provision of the error weighted plane fitting software, S. Gilfillan for air calibration work and D. Hilton for comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by NERC.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

    • Greg Holland
    •  & Chris J. Ballentine

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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Greg Holland.

Supplementary information

Word documents

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Methods

    A file containing equations for plane fit data and discussion of mantle Ne isotopic composition.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–3. Supplementary Figure 1 is three Ne isotope plot. Supplementary Figure 2a-d are 3-D isotope plots 3He/22Ne v 20Ne/22Ne v 21Ne/22Ne is 36Ar/22Ne v 20Ne/22Ne v 21Ne/22Ne, 40Ar/22Ne v 20Ne/22Ne v 21Ne/22Ne and 84Kr/22Ne v 20Ne/22Ne v 21Ne/22Ne. Supplementary Figure 3 shows addition of sediment to seawater generates Bravo Dome composition.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Tables

    Supplementary Tables 1–3. Supplementary Table 1 contains mantle elemental ratios using different methods. Supplementary Table 2 contains Sheep Mountain Xe data. Supplementary Table 3 contains McElmo Dome Xe data.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04761

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