Water-rich sublithospheric melt channel in the equatorial Atlantic Ocean

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Nature Geoscience, Volume 11, p.65–69 (2017)

Abstract:

The lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary is the most extensive boundary on Earth, separating the mobile plate above from the convecting mantle below, but its nature remains a matter of debate. Using an ultra-deep seismic reflection technique, here we show a systematic seismic image of two deep reflectors that we interpret as the upper and lower limits of the lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary beneath a 40–70-million-year-old oceanic lithosphere in the Atlantic Ocean. These two reflections correspond to 1,260 °C and 1,355 °C isotherms and bound a low-velocity channel, suggesting that the lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary is thermally controlled. We observe a clear age dependency of this sublithospheric channel: its depth increases with age from 72 km where it is 40-Myr-old to 88 km where it is 70-Myr-old, whereas its thickness decreases with age from 18 km to 12 km. We suggest that partial melting, facilitated by water, is the main mechanism responsible for the low-velocity channel. The required water concentration for melting increases with age; nevertheless, its corresponding total mass remains relatively constant, suggesting that most of the volatiles in the oceanic sublithospheric channel originate from a horizontal flux near the ridge axis.