Time-scales of differentiation from mafic parents to rhyolite in North American Continental Arcs

M. K. Reagan, K. W.W. Sims, J. Erich, R. B. Thomas, H. Cheng, R. L. Edwards, G. Layne, L. Ball

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91 Scopus citations


Young rhyolites and associated lavas and magmatic enclaves from the Katmai-Novarupta volcanic system (Alaskan Peninsula), and the Crater Lake and Medicine Lake volcanic system (Cascades) were analyzed for U and Th isotope abundances, as well as major and trace element concentrations, to investigate the time-scales of the processes that lead to rhyolite generation in continental arcs. Basalts and basaltic andesites typically migrate from the mantle to the surface within several thousand years. Variations in (230 Th)/(232 Th) and (238 U)/(232 Th) ratios with SiO2 concentrations in intermediate lavas appear to result from crystal fractionation combined with assimilation of recently crystallized magmas. These data also suggest that ∼104-105 years of mafic magmatism are required at a volcanic center to generate silicic andesites and dacites. Rhyolite genesis involves varying proportions of crystal fractionation of intermediate magmas and assimilation of crust. The near-equilibrium (238 U /(230 Th) ratios for all of the rhyolites suggest an average time since U was last fractionated from Th for the constituents making up these rhyolites of > 105 years. Therefore, the residence times of continental magmas and their entrained crystals appear to increase by a minimum of 2-3 orders of magnitude with increasing SiO2 concentrations from basalt to rhyolite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1703-1726
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Wes Hildreth, Julie Donnelly-Nolan, and Charlie Bacon are thanked for samples, unpublished data, encouragement, discussions over the years, and reviews of an early draft of the manuscript. Reviews by Wendy Bohrson, Shan de Silva, Olgeir Sigmarsson, and Chris Hawkesworth; editorial comments by Marjorie Wilson; and discussions with Jon Blundy, Simon Turner, and Rhiannon George significantly improved the manuscript. John Eichelberger is thanked for assistance in sample collection at the Katmai--Novarupta center. Terry Plank and Katherine Kelley are thanked for the exceptional major and trace element analyses. Yemane Asmerom helped develop the analytical techniques at Minnesota. Early alpha spectrometry analyses of Medicine Lake samples by Joe Hill launched this study. This work was funded by NSF grants EAR96-28486 (M.K.R.), EAR99-80605 (R.L.E.), and EAR00-01003(M.K.R., K.W.W.S.), as well as a University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Fellowship to R.L.E.


  • Aleutian arc
  • Andesite
  • Cascade arc
  • Rhyolite
  • Time-scales


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