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Pressure increases, the for­mation of chromite seams, and the development of the ultramafic series in the Stillwater Complex, Montana

January 1, 1993

This paper explores the hypothesis that chromite seams in the Stillwater Complex formed in response to periodic increases in total pressure in the chamber. Total pressure increased because of the positive δV of nucleation of CO2 bubbles in the melt and their subsequent rise through the magma chamber, during which the bubbles increased in volume by a factor of 4–6. By analogy with the pressure changes in the summit chambers of Kilauea and Krafla volcanoes, the maximum variation was 0⋅2–0⋅25 kbar, or 5–10% of the total pressure in the Stillwater chamber. An evaluation of the likelihood of fountaining and mixing of a new, primitive liquid that entered the chamber with the somewhat more evolved liquid already in the chamber is based upon calculations using observed and inferred velocities and flow rates of basaltic magmas moving through volcanic fissures. The calculations indicate that hot, dense magma would have oozed, rather than fountained into the chamber, and early mixing of the new and residual magmas that could have resulted in chromite crystallizing alone did not take place.

Mixing was an important process in the Stillwater magma chamber, however. After the new magma in the chamber underwent ˜5% fractional crystallization, its composition, temperature, and density approached those of the overlying liquid in the chamber and the liquids then mixed. If this process occurred many times over the course of the development of the Ultramafic series, a thick column of magma with orthopyroxene on its liquidus would have been the result. Thus, the sequence of multiple injections, fractionation, and mixing with previously fractionated magma could have been the mechanism that produced the thick bronzite cumulate layer (the Bronzitite zone) above the cyclic units.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1993
Title Pressure increases, the for­mation of chromite seams, and the development of the ultramafic series in the Stillwater Complex, Montana
DOI 10.1093/petrology/34.5.955
Authors Bruce R. Lipin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Petrology
Series Number
Index ID 70186940
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center