Melting of a subducting oceanic crust from U-Th disequilibria in austral Andean lavas

O. Sigmarsson*, H. Martin, J. Knowles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding crustal genesis at convergent plate boundaries is important for determining mass transfer between different geochemical reservoirs in the Earth's mantle, and for deciphering the long-term growth of the continental crust. Most arc magmas are thought to be generated from fluid-induced melting of the mantle wedge above slabs of subducting oceanic crust. Such magmas frequently display 238U enrichments or radioactive equilibrium between 238U and its radiogenic product 230Th. But where a young and hot oceanic crust is being subducted it may itself partially melt and produce calc-alkaline andesites and dacites, termed adakites. Here we report a uniform excess of 230Th over 238U, but variable Th isotope ratios, in young adakites from the Andean austral volcanic zone south of the triple junction where the Chile ridge subducts beneath South America. We show that these results are compatible with the adakites having been formed by approximately 20% equilibrium melting due to amphibole decomposition in a heterogeneous oceanic crust. Moreover, both the degree of melting of the oceanic crust and its thermal structure appear to be uniform undermost of the Andean austral volcanic zone. Such partial melting of subducted oceanic slabs may have occurred throughout the Earth's history where young oceanic plates were subducted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-569
Number of pages4
Issue number6693
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 1998


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