What Petit-Spot Volcanoes Tell us about the Lithosphere-Asthenosphere Boundary?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 16:45
302 (Moscone South)
Sebastien Pilet1, Natsue Abe2, Laetitia Rochat1, Mary-Alix Kaczmarek1, Annelore Bessat1, Thibault Duretz1 and Othmar Muntener1, (1)University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, (2)JAMSTEC Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Kanagawa, Japan
The top of the low seismic velocity zone (LVZ) is frequently used to localize the lithosphere –asthenosphere boundary (LAB) which separates rigid oceanic plates from the underlying ductile asthenosphere. The seismic and electric properties of the LVZ are generally explained by the presence of low degree melts located at the base of the lithosphere, but the composition of these melts (silicate or carbonated melts) is still in debate. If most models for the LAB are based on geophysical or experimental studies, the discovery of petit-spot volcanoes on the top of the down-going Pacific plate (1) provides unique opportunities to obtain direct information on the LAB. Petit-spot volcanoes are interpreted as small-scale seamounts formed by the extraction of low-degree melts from the base of the lithosphere in response of plate flexure and/or crack propagation (2). The petrology of petit-spot lavas from Japan and Costa Rica demonstrates, first, that melts from the LVZ correspond to volatiles rich low degree silicate melts rather then to carbonatitic melts. Second, the discovery of lithospheric metasomatized mantle xenoliths and xenocrysts in the petit-spot lavas suggest that plate bending in front of subduction zones does not only produce petit-spot lavas at the surface, but allowed low degree melts from the LVZ to percolate and differentiate across the base of the oceanic lithosphere. This observation has important implication for the LAB because it demonstrates that deformed LAB does not represent a impermeable barrier for melt percolation as communally assumed, but deformation allows melts from the asthenosphere to percolate through peridotite matrix for significant distance (~10-20 km) modifying the rheology and the seismic properties of the base of the lithospheric mantle. This aspect needs to be taking into account in any model trying to simulate lithosphere asthenosphere deformation.

(1) Hirano et al., 2006, Science 313, 1426-1428; (2) Valentine & Hirano, 2010, Geology 38, 55-58.