The Longevity of the South-Pacific Isotopic and Thermal Anomaly

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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The South Pacific is anomalous in terms of the Sr, Nd, and Pb isotope ratios of its hot spot basalts, a thermally enhanced lithosphere, and possibly a hotter mantle. We have studied the Sr, Nd, and Pb isotope characteristics of 12 Cretaceous seamounts in the Magellans, Marshall and Wake seamount groups (western Pacific Ocean) that originated in this South Pacific Isotopic and Thermal Anomaly (SOPITA). The range and values of isotope ratios of the Cretaceous seamount data are similar to those of the island chains of Samoa, Tahiti, Marquesas and Cook/Austral in the SOPITA. These define two major mantle components suggesting that isotopically extreme lavas have been produced at SOPITA for at least 120 Ma. Shallow bathymetry, and weakened lithosphere beneath some of the seamounts studied suggests that at least some of the thermal effects prevailed during the Cretaceous as well. These data, in the context of published data, suggest:(1) SOPITA is a long-lived feature, and enhanced heat transfer into the lithosphere and isotopically anomalous mantle appear to be an intrinsic characteristic of the anomaly.(2) The less pronounced depth anomaly during northwesterly plate motion suggests that some of the expressions of SOPITA may be controlled by the direction of plate motion. Motion parallel to the alignment of SOPITA hot spots focusses the heat (and chemical input into the lithosphere) on a smaller cross section than oblique motion.(3) The lithosphere in the eastern and central SOPITA appears to have lost its original depleted mantle characteristics, probably due to enhanced plume/lithosphere interaction, and it is dominated by isotopic compositions derived from plume materials.(4) We speculate (following D.L. Anderson) that the origin of the SOPITA, and possibly the DUPAL anomaly is largely due to focused subduction through long periods of the geological history of the earth, creating a heterogeneous distribution of recycled components in the lower mantle.


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