Megacrystals track magma convection between reservoir and surface

Abstract : Active volcanoes are typically fed by magmatic reservoirs situated within the upper crust. The development of thermal and/or compositional gradients in such magma chambers may lead to vigorous convection as inferred from theoretical models and evidence for magma mixing recorded in volcanic rocks. Bi-directional flow is also inferred to prevail in the conduits of numerous persistently-active volcanoes based on observed gas and thermal emissions at the surface, as well as experiments with analogue models. However, more direct evidence for such exchange flows has hitherto been lacking. Here, we analyse the remarkable oscillatory zoning of anorthoclase feldspar megacrystals erupted from the lava lake of Erebus volcano, Antarctica. A comprehensive approach, combining phase equilibria, solubility experiments and melt inclusion and textural analyses shows that the chemical profiles are best explained as a result of multiple episodes of magma transport between a deeper reservoir and the lava lake at the surface. Individual crystals have repeatedly travelled up-and-down the plumbing system, over distances of up to several kilometers, presumably as a consequence of entrainment in the bulk magma flow. Our findings thus corroborate the model of bi-directional flow in magmatic conduits. They also imply contrasting flow regimes in reservoir and conduit, with vigorousconvection in the former (regular convective cycles of ∼150 days at a speed of ∼0.5mms−1) and more complex cycles of exchange flow and re-entrainment in the latter. We estimate that typical, 1-cm-wide crystals should be at least 14 years old, and can record several (from 1to 3) complete cycles between the reservoir and the lava lake via the conduit. This persistent recycling of phonolitic magma is likely sustained by CO2fluxing, suggesting that accumulation of mafic magma in the lower crust is volumetrically more significant than that of evolved magma within the edifice.
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Yves Moussallam, Clive Oppenheimer, Bruno Scaillet, Iris Buisman, Christine Kimball, et al.. Megacrystals track magma convection between reservoir and surface. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2015, 413, pp.1-12. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2014.12.022⟩. ⟨insu-01124396⟩

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