Noble gas isotopic compositions of mantle xenoliths from northwestern Pacific lithosphere

Junji Yamamoto, Naoto Hirano, Natsue Abe, Takeshi Hanyu

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We measured noble gas isotopic compositions of mantle xenoliths and xenocrystic olivines sampled from seamounts-so-called petit-spot volcanoes-on the 135-million-year-old northwestern Pacific Plate. The xenoliths are spinel lherzolites originating from suboceanic lithospheric mantle. The samples' 3He/4He ratios are 7.0-8.5 Ra, where Ra signifies atmospheric 3He/4He. The 40Ar/36Ar ratios are as high as 7000. These observations suggest that the noble gas isotopic compositions of suboceanic lithospheric mantle resemble those of mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB). A mantle source with a He/U ratio as high as an assumed value for MORB source is necessary to maintain the MORB-like 3He/4He over 135 million years, implying that melt extraction at mid-ocean ridges only slightly alters the He/U ratio of the oceanic upper mantle. The 4He/40Ar* ratios of the samples described herein are much lower than the theoretical radiogenic production ratio, where an asterisk denotes correction for atmospheric contribution. The low 4He/40Ar* is inferred to result from kinetic fractionation in the mantle. When magma migrates through a mantle source, lighter noble gases in the mantle source diffuse selectively into magma channels. The MORB generation does not cause low 4He/40Ar*, however. If a mantle source is depleted in lighter noble gases during ancient MORB generation, then noble gas isotopic compositions of the mantle source are affected over time by accumulation of radiogenic nuclides. Thereby, the mantle source adopts a radiogenic or nucleogenic noble gas isotopic composition. Recent kinetic fractionation contributes to the low 4He/40Ar* in the samples. Based on the diffusive fractionation model, more than 100 years are necessary to produce a residual mantle source with 4He/40Ar*, as observed in the samples. However, petit-spot volcanoes, found as small knolls, seem to erupt within a short period. The low 4He/40Ar* of the samples implies prior volcanism in this region. No recent volcanism has occurred near this region aside from petit-spot volcanism, indicating that petit-spot volcanoes are polygenetic with a long active period. Petit-spot volcanoes are regarded as common magmatism on the subducting oceanic plate. Consequently, the thermal structure and temperature-dependent physical properties of the oceanic plate are, at least partly, affected by remnant heat of the magmatism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 30 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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