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Role of the deep mantle in generating the compositional asymmetry of the Hawaiian mantle plume

Abstract

Linear chains of volcanic ocean islands are one of the most distinctive features on our planet. The longest, the Hawaiian–Emperor Chain, has been active for more than 80 million years, and is thought to have formed as the Pacific Plate moved across the Hawaiian mantle plume, the hottest and most productive of Earth's plumes. Volcanoes fed by the plume today form two adjacent trends, including Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, that exhibit strikingly different geochemical characteristics. An extensive data set of isotopic analyses shows that lavas with these distinct characteristics have erupted in parallel along the Kea and Loa trends for at least 5 million years. Seismological data suggest that the Hawaiian mantle plume, when projected into the deep mantle, overlies the boundary between typical Pacific lower mantle and a sharply defined layer of apparently different material. This layer exhibits low seismic shear velocities and occurs on the Loa side of the plume. We conclude that the geochemical differences between the Kea and Loa trends reflect preferential sampling of these two distinct sources of deep mantle material. Similar indications of preferential sampling at the limit of a large anomalous low-velocity zone are found in Kerguelen and Tristan da Cunha basalts in the Indian and Atlantic oceans, respectively. We infer that the anomalous low-velocity zones at the core–mantle boundary are storing geochemical anomalies that are enriched in recycled material and sampled by strong mantle plumes.

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Figure 1: Key bathymetric and isotopic features of the Hawaiian Islands.
Figure 2: Isotopic data for Hawaiian shield lavas.
Figure 3: Mauna Loa flows and southwest submarine rift zone.
Figure 4: Temporal evolution of isotopic compositions from Hawaiian volcanoes.
Figure 5: Deep mantle velocity anomalies and hotspot locations.

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. DePaolo, A. Hofmann, D. Hanano, A. Greene, I. Nobre Silva, C. Farnetani, F. Albarède and numerous PCIGR graduate students for discussions and insights into mantle geochemistry. We thank C. Maerschalk (ULB), B. Kieffer and J. Barling (PCIGR, UBC) for helping to produce the data. We thank S. Sparks, VGP President, for inviting D.W. to give the Daly Lecture at Fall AGU 2010. Financial support was provided by the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS), NSERC Discovery Grants to D.W., J.S.S. and A.M.J., and NSF grants to M.O.G. and J.M.R. A.M.J. also acknowledges support from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.W.

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D.W. acquired the data, compiled the literature data, conceived the idea for the paper and developed the conceptual model with A.M.J. D.W. wrote the paper, together with A.M.J and J.S.S. All authors discussed the results and the model, and contributed to the manuscript. M.O.G. and J.M.R. also wrote the proposals, led the expeditions and organized the sampling on Hawai'i and shared their knowledge and data on these islands.

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Correspondence to Dominique Weis.

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Weis, D., Garcia, M., Rhodes, J. et al. Role of the deep mantle in generating the compositional asymmetry of the Hawaiian mantle plume. Nature Geosci 4, 831–838 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1328

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