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South Pacific mantle plumes imaged by seismic observation on islands and seafloor

Abstract : The South Pacific region is characterized by a broadly elevated seafloor known as the South Pacific superswell. This region has a concentration of midplate volcanoes that experienced massive eruptions in the mid-Cretaceous period (90-120 Ma). These characteristics suggest the presence of a large-scale mantle plume beneath the South Pacific, called the South Pacific superplume. The geometry, origin depth, temperature, and composition of the superplume remain controversial, however, mainly due to the lack of seismological data that documents the mantle structure beneath the South Pacific. Seismic stations are sparse in the area due to its remote ocean environment. To obtain a better seismic image of the superplume, we deployed temporary broadband seismographs on oceanic islands and the seafloor in the South Pacific, which made possible the highest spatial resolution that has ever been achieved for the mantle structure beneath the region. The seismic image obtained from this new seismic data indicates that large-scale low-velocity anomalies (on the order of 1000 km in diameter), indicative of the superplume, are located from the bottom of the mantle to a depth of 1000 km, and small-scale low-velocity anomalies (on the order of 100 km in diameter) are present above it. A comparison of the seismic image with recent mantle convection studies based upon laboratory and numerical experiments suggests that the superplume may be a hot and chemically distinct mantle dome, and that the small-scale anomalies may be narrow plumes generated from the top of the dome. This model may explain various characteristics of hot spots in the South Pacific, such as the seafloor swell, short-lived hot spot chains, and the periodicity of massive eruptions.
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D. Suetsugu, T. Isse, S. Tanaka, M. Obayashi, H. Shiobara, et al.. South Pacific mantle plumes imaged by seismic observation on islands and seafloor. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, AGU and the Geochemical Society, 2009, 10 (11), pp.Q11014. ⟨10.1029/2009GC002533⟩. ⟨hal-00443845⟩



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