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Abundant carbon in the mantle beneath Hawai`i

September 1, 2017

Estimates of carbon concentrations in Earth’s mantle vary over more than an order of magnitude, hindering our ability to understand mantle structure and mineralogy, partial melting, and the carbon cycle. CO2 concentrations in mantle-derived magmas supplying hotspot ocean island volcanoes yield our most direct constraints on mantle carbon, but are extensively modified by degassing during ascent. Here we show that undegassed magmatic and mantle carbon concentrations may be estimated in a Bayesian framework using diverse geologic information at an ocean island volcano. Our CO2 concentration estimates do not rely upon complex degassing models, geochemical tracer elements, assumed magma supply rates, or rare undegassed rock samples. Rather, we couple volcanic CO2 emission rates with probabilistic magma supply rates, which are obtained indirectly from magma storage and eruption rates. We estimate that the CO2content of mantle-derived magma supplying Hawai‘i’s active volcanoes is 0.97−0.19+0.25 wt%—roughly 40% higher than previously believed—and is supplied from a mantle source region with a carbon concentration of 263−62+81 ppm. Our results suggest that mantle plumes and ocean island basalts are carbon-rich. Our data also shed light on helium isotope abundances, CO2/Nb ratios, and may imply higher CO2 emission rates from ocean island volcanoes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Abundant carbon in the mantle beneath Hawai`i
DOI 10.1038/ngeo3007
Authors Kyle R. Anderson, Michael P. Poland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Geoscience
Series Number
Index ID 70190580
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center