Craton vs. rift uppermost mantle contributions to magnetic anomalies in the United States interior

S. A. Friedman, J. M. Feinberg, E. C. Ferré, F. Demory, F. Martín-Hernández, J. A. Conder, P. Rochette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The interpretation of satellite magnetic information (Magsat, Oersted, CHAMP, Swarm) requires the understanding of the mineralogy of crustal and mantle sources. Also, spectral analysis of magnetic data over forearcs and cratons calls for upper mantle contribution. The prospect of such a contribution contradicts the view that the mantle is too hot and its magnetism is too weak to influence magnetic anomalies.Here we examine the rock magnetic properties of fresh mantle xenoliths from four settings across the United States: phlogopite-spinel dunites from the Bearpaw Mountains, Montana, and lherzolites/harzburgites from San Carlos, Arizona; Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico; and Knippa, Texas. Paleomagnetic results show single-component natural remanent magnetizations (NRMs), which, combined with optical and secondary electron microscopy support the lack of post-eruption alteration and absence of host-rock contamination. The NRM carriers include magnetite at Bearpaw Mountain and San Carlos, and pyrrhotite at Kilbourne Hole and Knippa. These four areas show continental crust of distinct thicknesses and various geotherms. The potential mantle contribution to magnetic anomalies is forward modeled using crustal thickness, current geotherm and average magnetic properties of xenoliths. The San Carlos and Kilbourne Hole mantle, situated near the Rio Grande Rift is too hot and its magnetism is too weak to contribute to anomalies. The sulfide-dominated assemblage at Knippa does not support magnetization at mantle depths. In contrast, the Bearpaw Mountains combine a relatively cold geotherm (craton) and abundance of magnetite formed at mantle depth. This cratonic mantle, metasomatized by fluids from the Farallon plate, may contribute to long wavelength magnetic anomalies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the assistance of the Vulcan staff at Knippa, Texas in locating xenoliths in the quarry. Our thanks also go to Urmidola Raye who provided two xenolith samples from Knippa. Discussions with Carter Hearn, Douglas Smith, Steve Haggerty, Clive Neal, and Justin Filiberto greatly improved our understanding of the mantle petrologic processes. This research was partially supported by NSF-EAR 1345105 to E.C.F. and NSF-EAR 1345071 to J.M.F.


  • Craton
  • Magnetic anomaly
  • Magnetization
  • Mantle
  • Xenolith


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