The Melt Segregation During Ascent of Buoyant Diapirs in Subduction Zones

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Nan Zhang, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole, MA, United States, Mark D Behn, Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst, Woods Hole, MA, United States, E Marc Parmentier, Brown University, Geological Sciences, Providence, RI, United States and Christopher R Kincaid, Univ Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI, United States
Cold, low-density diapirs arising from hydrated mantle and/or subducted sediments on the top of subducting slabs may transport key chemical signatures from the slab to the shallow source region for arc magmas. These chemical signatures are strongly influenced by melting of this buoyant material during its ascent. However, to date there have been relatively few quantitative models to constrain melting and melt segregation in an ascending diapir, as well as the induced geochemical signature.

Here, we use a two-phase Darcy-Stokes-energy model to investigate thermal evolution, melting, and melt segregation in buoyant diapirs as they ascend through the mantle wedge. Using a simplified 2-D axi-symmetric circular geometry we investigate diapir evolution in three scenarios with increasing complexity. First, we consider a case without melting in which the thermal evolution of the diapir is controlled solely by thermal diffusion during ascent. Our results show that for most cases (e.g., diapir radius ≤ 3.7 km and diapir generation depths of ~ 75 km) thermal diffusion times are smaller than the ascent time—implying that the diapir will thermal equilibrate with the mantle wedge. Secondly, we parameterize melting within the diapir, but without melt segregation, and add the effect of latent heat to the thermal evolution of the diapir. Latent heat significantly buffers heating of the diapir. For the diapir with radius ~3.7 km, the heating from the outside is slowed down ~30%. Finally, we include melt segregation within the diapir in the model. Melting initiates at the boundaries of the diapir as the cold interior warms in response to thermal equilibration with the hot mantle wedge. This forms a high porosity, high permeability rim around the margin of the diapir. As the diapir continues to warm and ascend, new melts migrate into this rim and are focused upward, accumulating at the top of the diapir. The rim thus acts like an annulus melt channel isolating the central part of diapir from the hot exterior and leading to even slower heating rates compared to cases without melt segregation.

These model results suggest that the melting and melt migration in an ascending diapir will segregate the interior from the outer rim, and may generate strong chemical gradients across the diapir.