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Petrological evidence for secular cooling in mantle plumes


Geological mapping and geochronological studies have shown much lower eruption rates for ocean island basalts (OIBs) in comparison with those of lavas from large igneous provinces (LIPs) such as oceanic plateaux and continental flood provinces1. However, a quantitative petrological comparison has never been made between mantle source temperature and the extent of melting for OIB and LIP sources. Here we show that the MgO and FeO contents of Galapagos-related lavas and their primary magmas have decreased since the Cretaceous period. From petrological modelling2, we infer that these changes reflect a cooling of the Galapagos mantle plume from a potential temperature of 1,560–1,620 °C in the Cretaceous to 1,500 °C at present. Iceland also exhibits secular cooling, in agreement with previous studies3,4. Our work provides quantitative petrological evidence that, in general, mantle plumes for LIPs with Palaeocene–Permian ages were hotter and melted more extensively than plumes of more modern ocean islands. We interpret this to reflect episodic flow from lower-mantle domains that are lithologically and geochemically heterogeneous.

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Figure 1: Compositions and inferred temperature–pressure conditions of melting for Galapagos-related magmatism.
Figure 2: Mantle potential temperatures inferred for lavas from some LIPs and ocean islands.
Figure 3: A generic model for interpreting the spatial localization of petrological variability.
Figure 4: Melt fractions inferred for lavas for some LIPs and ocean islands.


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We are grateful to N. Sleep and A. Kerr for reviews, and to C. Class, M. Hirschmann, P. Asimow, M. Humayun and K. Hoernle for discussions.

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Correspondence to Claude Herzberg.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Notes to Supplementary Tables S1-S3, Supplementary Figures S1-S3 with Legends and Supplementary References. (PDF 915 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Table 1 shows results for lavas from the Caribbean Large Igneous Province (CLIP), Gorgona, and the Galápagos hotspot and its associated Carnegie and Coco Ridges (see file s1 for notes relating to this table). (XLS 49 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Table S2 shows results of primary magma compositions for various LIPS (see file s1 for notes relating to this table). (XLS 45 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

Table S3 shows results of primary magma solutions for various oceanic islands (see file s1 for notes relating to this table). (XLS 59 kb)

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Herzberg, C., Gazel, E. Petrological evidence for secular cooling in mantle plumes. Nature 458, 619–622 (2009).

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