Volcanic–plutonic parity and the differentiation of the continental crust

C. Brenhin Keller, Blair Schoene, Melanie Barboni, Kyle M. Samperton, and Jon M. Husson.

Nature, 2015: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14584

Here we used the weighted bootstrap resampling approach from our 2012 paper to address the longstanding question of volcanic-plutonic parity. The results indicate that felsic plutons are not (on average) significantly more cumulate than felsic volcanics, favor fractional crystallization as the predominant mechanism of geochemical differentiation, and suggest the influence of magmatic water content on magma stalling and intrusion. This paper was my first foray into high-performance computing, running ~1.3 million pMELTS simulations to invert for P-T paths and water contents that produce differentiation trends similar to the those observed in the natural dataset.

PDF, Code and Data

The continental crust is central to the biological and geological history of Earth. However, crustal heterogeneity has prevented a thorough geochemical comparison of its primary igneous building blocks—volcanic and plutonic rocks—and the processes by which they differentiate to felsic compositions. Our analysis of a comprehensive global data set of volcanic and plutonic whole-rock geochemistry shows that differentiation trends from primitive basaltic to felsic compositions for volcanic versus plutonic samples are generally indistinguishable in subduction-zone settings, but are divergent in continental rifts. Offsets in major- and trace-element differentiation patterns in rift settings suggest higher water content in plutonic magmas and reduced eruptibility of hydrous silicate magmas relative to dry rift volcanics. In both tectonic settings, our results indicate that fractional crystallization, rather than crustal melting, is predominantly responsible for the production of intermediate and felsic magmas, emphasizing the role of mafic cumulates as a residue of crustal differentiation.

Suggested citation: Keller, C.B., Schoene, B., Barboni, M., Samperton, K.M. & Husson, J.M. (2015). Volcanic–plutonic parity and the differentiation of the continental crust. Nature 523, 301–307.