Non-hotspot formation of volcanic chains: control of tectonic and flexural stresses on magma transport
The South Pacific, in the vicinity of both the superswell and the East Pacific Rise, is repleat with volcanic chains that, unlike the Emperor-Hawaiian Chain, defy the hypothesis of formation via the relative motion of plates and hotspots. We propose two nearly identical models for the origin of near-axis and superswell chains, assuming that both regions are underlain by significant quantities of more or less uniformly distributed partial melt. Given an initial volcanic load or a local anomaly in the melt source region, volcanic chains form by magmatic hydrofracture at local tensile maxima of flexural and membrane stresses. Fracture wall erosion by magma flow provides a feedback which results in discrete edifices within the chains. The model predicts island chains aligned with a deviatorically tensile tectonic stress. Near the ridge, the elastic lithosphere is thin, and observations and theoretical considerations indicate a strong deviatorically tensile stress field perpendicular to the ridge axis. Under such conditions, the model results in parallel lines of volcanoes perpendicular to the spreading ridge. Later, interstitial volcanism within the individual chains reduces the average spacing and results in nearly continuous ridges. On the thicker lithosphere of the superswell, membrane stresses are negligible and the model produces chains of much more widely spaced volcanoes. A more isotropic stress field may result in broader chain-like patterns of volcanoes. In both cases, the chains represent self-propagating disturbances; the resulting age progressions are thus independent of plate velocity, but depend only on the dynamics of volcano formation and evolution.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters
- Pub Date:
- September 2000
- Earth Science