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Evidence for volatile-influenced differentiation in a layered alkali basalt flow, Penghu Islands, Taiwan

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Abstract

An approximately 20-m-thick alkali basalt flow on the Penghu Islands contains ∼20 cm thick, horizontally continuous (>50 m), vesicular layers separated by ∼1.5 m of massive basalt in its upper 8.5 m. The three layers contain ocelli-like "vesicles" filled with nepheline and igneous carbonate. They are coarse grained and enriched in incompatible elements relative to the massive basalt with which they form sharp contacts. These vesicular layers (segregation veins) formed when residual liquid in the underlying crystal mush was forced (gas filter pressing) or siphoned into three thermally induced horizontal cracks that opened successively in the advancing crystal mush of the flow's upper crust. Most vesicular layer trace elements can be modelled by residual melt extraction after 25–40% fractional crystallization of massive basalt underlying each layer. Sulphur, Cl, As, Zn, Pb, K, Na, Rb, and Sr show large concentration changes between the top, middle, and bottom layers, with each vesicular and underlying massive basalt forming a chemically distinct "pair." The large changes between layers are difficult to account for by crystal fractionation alone, because other incompatible elements (e.g., La, Sm, Yb, Zr, Nb) and the major elements change little. The association of these elements (S, Cl, etc.) with "fluids" in various geologic environments suggests that volatiles influenced differentiation, perhaps by moving alkali, alkaline earth, and chalcophile elements as magma-dissolved volatile complexes. Volatiles may have also led to large grain sizes in the segregation veins by lowering melt viscosities and raising diffusion rates. The chemical variability between layers indicates that a convection and concentration mechanism acted within the flow. The specific process cannot be determined, but different rates of vesicle plume rise (through the flow) and/or accumulation in the upper crust's crystal mush might account for the chemical pairing and extreme variations in Cl, S, As, and C. This study emphasizes the importance of sampling vesicular rocks in flows. It also suggests that volatiles play important physical and chemical roles in rapidly differentiating mafic magmas in processes decoupled from crystal fractionation.

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Received: 11 November 1996 / Accepted: 20 September 1998

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Greenough, J., Lee, C. & Fryer, B. Evidence for volatile-influenced differentiation in a layered alkali basalt flow, Penghu Islands, Taiwan. Bull Volcanol 60, 412–424 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004450050241

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  • Key words Alkali basalt
  • Segregation veins
  • Trace element geochemistry
  • Differentiation
  • Modelling
  • Volatiles
  • Penghu Islands