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A young source for the Hawaiian plume



Recycling of oceanic crust through subduction, mantle upwelling, and remelting in mantle plumes is a widely accepted mechanism to explain ocean island volcanism1. The timescale of this recycling is important to our understanding of mantle circulation rates. Correlations of uranogenic lead isotopes in lavas from ocean islands such as Hawaii or Iceland, when interpreted as model isochrons, have yielded source differentiation ages between 1 and 2.5 billion years (Gyr)2,3,4,5. However, if such correlations are produced by mixing of unrelated mantle components6 they will have no direct age significance. Re–Os decay model ages take into account the mixing of sources with different histories7,8, but they depend on the assumed initial Re/Os ratio of the subducted crust, which is poorly constrained because of the high mobility of rhenium during subduction9. Here we report the first data on 87Sr/86Sr ratios for 138 melt inclusions in olivine phenocrysts from lavas of Mauna Loa shield volcano, Hawaii, indicating enormous mantle source heterogeneity. We show that highly radiogenic strontium in severely rubidium-depleted melt inclusions matches the isotopic composition of 200–650-Myr-old sea water. We infer that such sea water must have contaminated the Mauna Loa source rock, before subduction, imparting a unique ‘time stamp’ on this source. Small amounts of seawater-derived strontium in plume sources may be common but can be identified clearly only in ultra-depleted melts originating from generally highly (incompatible-element) depleted source components. The presence of 200–650-Myr-old oceanic crust in the source of Hawaiian lavas implies a timescale of general mantle circulation with an average rate of about 2 (±1) cm yr−1, much faster than previously thought.

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Figure 1: Compositions of lavas and melt inclusions in olivine phenocrysts from recent (younger than 50 kyr) eruptions of Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii.
Figure 2: Primitive mantle 31 normalized concentrations of incompatible elements in melt inclusions in euhedral olivine crystals from a single sample (K97-15b) of Puu Wahi scoria cone, Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
Figure 3: 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratios in melt inclusions and matrix glass in euhedral olivine crystals of sample (K97-15b), Puu Wahi scoria cone, Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
Figure 4: 87 Sr/ 86 Sr ratios of the two most radiogenic Mauna Loa melt inclusions superimposed on the time evolution of Sr isotopic composition of sea water.


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We thank A. T. Anderson for providing the Puu-Wahi sample, N. Groschopf for help in managing the electron probe microanalyser, A. Yasevich and O. Kuzmina for sample preparation, and G. Wörner, N. Arndt and F. Holtz for discussions. This study was funded by an Agence Nationale de la Recherche, France, Chair of Excellence grant (ANR-09-CEXC-003-01) to A.V.S.. Partial support by a Gauss Professorship in Göttingen University, Germany, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (09-05-01193a), a Russian President grant for leading Russian scientific schools (НШ-3919.2010.5), and Earth Sciences Department of Russian Academy grants to A.V.S. are also acknowledged. This is Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory contribution 7479.

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A.V.S. designed the project. A.V.S. and A.W.H. conceived the interpretation and the model and wrote the paper. K.P.J. developed the analytical methods for isotope measurements by LA-ICP-MS. D.V.K. processed samples. D.V.K. and B.S. took the measurements. All authors contributed intellectually to the paper.

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Correspondence to Alexander V. Sobolev.

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Sobolev, A., Hofmann, A., Jochum, K. et al. A young source for the Hawaiian plume. Nature 476, 434–437 (2011).

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