Plume-driven upwelling under Central Iceland

J. Maclennan*, D. Mckenzie, K. Gronvold

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A suite of 70 basaltic samples from the Herdubreid region of the Northern Volcanic Zone (NVZ) in central Iceland has been analysed for major and trace element compositions. The average light rare earth element concentration of these basalts is more than a factor of 2 higher than that of basalts from the Theistareykir volcanic system near the northern end of the NVZ. Seismic surveys of the NVZ have shown that the crustal thickness increases from ∼ 20 km near Theistareykir to 32-40 km in central Iceland. The observed REE composition and crustal thickness of the Theistareykir area can be reproduced by a melting model where mantle with a potential temperature of ∼ 1480°C upwells under the spreading ridge and the mantle upwelling is driven by plate separation alone. However, plate-driven upwelling models cannot simultaneously reproduce the composition of the Herdubreid region lava and the observed crustal thickness. Forward and inverse techniques show that plate-driven models that match the crustal thickness underestimate the La concentration by more than a factor of 2, and models that reproduce the compositions underestimate the crustal thickness by a factor of 4-5. Therefore one of the assumptions involved in the plate-driven upwelling models is not appropriate for central Iceland. A new set of models was developed in which mantle upwelling rates are allowed to differ from those of plate-driven upwelling in order to investigate the role of plume-driven mantle upwelling. The lava composition and crustal thickness of the Herdubreid region can be reproduced by models where the upwelling rates near the base of the melting region (> 100 km depth) are ∼ 10 times higher than those expected from plate-driven upwelling alone and the mantle potential temperature is 1480-1520°C. About half of the melt generation under central Iceland results from plume-driven upwelling, with the remainder caused by plate-driven upwelling of hot material. This result is in agreement with numerical models of ridge-centered plumes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-82
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Other keywords

  • Basalts
  • Hot spots
  • Iceland
  • Igneous rocks
  • Mantle plumes
  • Melting
  • Mid-ocean ridges
  • Rift zones


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