Constraints on volumes and patterns of asthenospheric melt from the space-time distribution of seamounts

Clinton P. Conrad, Kate Selway, Marc M. Hirschmann, Maxim D. Ballmer, Paul Wessel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Although partial melt in the asthenosphere is important geodynamically, geophysical constraints on its abundance remain ambiguous. We use a database of seamounts detected using satellite altimetry to constrain the temporal history of erupted asthenospheric melt. We find that intraplate volcanism on young seafloor (<60 Ma) equates to a ~20 m thick layer spread across the seafloor. If these seamounts tap partial melt within a ~20 km thick layer beneath the ridge flanks, they indicate extraction of an average melt fraction of ~0.1%. If they source thinner layers or more laterally restricted domains, larger melt fractions are required. Increased seamount volumes for older lithosphere suggest either more active ridge flank volcanism during the Cretaceous or additional recent melt eruption on older seafloor. Pacific basin age constraints suggest that both processes are important. Our results indicate that small volumes of partial melt may be prevalent in the upper asthenosphere across ocean basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7203-7210
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 28 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by the Research Council of Norway Centres of Excellence project 223272 and the Australian Research Council grant FT150100541. We used data from the references and Kim and Wessel [] seamount data available at

Publisher Copyright:
©2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • asthenosphere
  • intraplate volcanism
  • lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary
  • partial melt
  • seamounts


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