Intraplate Harrat Volcanism and Neogene Evolution of the Lithosphere-Asthenosphere Boundary beneath Western Saudi Arabia
Abstract:Continental extension is a fundamental plate tectonic process, and extensional environments are associated with significant production of basaltic magmas. Although tholeiitic magmatism produced by mantle decompression is common, dispersed, less voluminous and compositionally variable basaltic and related magmas also occur in association with continental extension. One of the most voluminous, best-preserved and least studied examples of the latter is the volcanic harrats of western Saudi Arabia. Uplift, crustal erosion and harrat volcanism occurred from ~15 Ma to recent over a considerable region of western Arabia. Volcanism trends north from the Red Sea along the Makkah-Madinah-Nafud (MMN) line as a number of discrete harrats, and geophysical evidence suggests this region is underlain by hot upwelling asthenosphere. Larger harrats occur along the central axis of the MMN line, with smaller fields on the periphery.
We present initial results of an ongoing study of harrat volcanism, including more than 50 new 40Ar-39Ar ages together with geochemical and isotopic data. Magma storage and fractionation appears to have occurred at a range of crustal levels, including deep storage and transport sufficiently rapid to preserve a range of lithospheric and crustal xenoliths. Melting commenced within the garnet peridotite field, however modeling of REE element abundances suggest that considerable differences exist in the thickness of the overlying lithospheric lid. Thinner lithosphere (<40 km) and higher degrees of melting occurs along the MMN line, whereas harrats peripheral to the MMN line have thicker lithosphere (>60-80 km) and magmas result from lower degree melts. The observed variability can be explained by a process of progressively thinning lithosphere along the main axis of the MMN line, as a result of regional lithospheric extension and mantle decompression melting, coupled with northward asthenospheric flow from the Red Sea and/or Afar hot spot.