Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 126–142

Relationship between plagioclase crystallization and cooling rate in basaltic melts

  • Katharine V. Cashman

DOI: 10.1007/BF00320836

Cite this article as:
Cashman, K.V. Contr. Mineral. and Petrol. (1993) 113: 126. doi:10.1007/BF00320836


Rock textures commonly preserve a record of the near-surface crystallization history of volcanic rocks. Under conditions of simple cooling without convection or mixing, textures will reflect sample cooling rate, the temperature at which crystallization was initiated, and the distribution of mineral phase precipitation across the crystallization interval. Compilation of plagioclase size and number density data on natural (dike, sill and lava lake) and experimental samples suggests that (1) growth and nucleation rates of plagioclase in natural basaltic samples are a predictable function of cooling rate, and (2) the observed crystallization rate dependence on cooling rate is similar to that observed in experiments initiated at subliquidus temperatures. Comparison of natural and experimental samples thus suggests that most basalts crystallize under conditions of heterogeneous nucleation, with the number density of preexisting nucleii partially controlling textural responses to cooling rate changes. Time scales of crystallization and cooling in magmatic systems are intimately linked through a balance between heat removal from the system and heat evolved through crystallization. Evaluation of textural data in the context of recent numerical models of crystallization in simple (one- and two-component systems) provides new insight into regularities in the crystallization behavior of basaltic magmas. For example, the rate of change in crystal size (and number density, as dictated by mass balance) has been used as a measure of the relative importance of time scales of crystallization and cooling in numerical models of crystallizing systems. In natural samples, plagioclase size scales with the length scale of cooling such that a logarithmic plot of grain size as a function of normalized distance across the dike has a slope that appears approximately independent of dike width (solidification time). Comparison with available textural data for other phenocryst phases suggests that the same may be true for pyroxene and magnetite crystallization, with each phase having a characteristic slope probably controlled by the thermodynamic properties of the crystallizing phase. Measured crystal size distributions are unimodal and show maximum frequencies in the smaller size classes; distributions broaden and the grain size at peak frequency increases with increasing crystallization times (decreasing cooling rates). In contrast, partially crystallized Makaopuhi lava lake samples have crystal size distributions that decrease exponentially with increasing crystal size. Measured size distributions in dikes can be explained by late stage modification of Makaopuhi-type distributions through loss of small crystals, possibly the consequence of growth without nucleation. Finally, this compilation of the textural response of basaltic magmas to changes in cooling rate suggests that empirical calibrations of crystallization rate dependence on cooling rate from natural samples provide a reasonable model for plagioclase crystallization in near-surface basaltic systems. Predicted growth rates will be slow and relatively constant (10-10–10-11 cm/s) for crystallization times expected in most shallow volcanic systems (<1000 years).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharine V. Cashman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological and Geophysical SciencesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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