Experimental petrology of alkalic lavas: constraints on cotectics of multiple saturation in natural basic liquids

  • Richard O. Sack
  • David Walker
  • Ian S. E. Carmichael


Experimental study of natural alkalic lava compositions at low pressures (pO2∼QFM) reveals that crystallization of primitive lavas often occurs in the sequence olivine, plagioclase, clinopyroxene, nepheline without “obvious” reaction relation. Pseudoternary liquidus projections of multiply saturated liquids coexisting with plagioclase (±olivine±clinopyroxene±nepheline) have been prepared to facilitate graphical analysis of the evolution of lava compositions during hypabyssal cooling. Use of (TiAl2)(MgSi2)−1 and Fe3+ (Al)−1 exchange components is a key aspect of the projection procedure which is succesful in reducing a wide range of compositions to a systematic graphical representation. These projections, and the experiments on which they are based, show that low pressure fractionation plays a significant role in the petrogenesis of many alkalic lava suites from both continental and oceanic settings. However, the role of polybaric fractionation is more evident in the major element chemistry of these lava suites than in many tholeiitic suites of comparable extent. For example, the lavas of Karisimbi, East Africa, show a range of compositions reflecting a polybaric petrogenesis from primitive picrites at 1360° C/18 kb and leading to advanced low pressure differentiates. Evolved leucite-bearing potassic members of this and other suites may be treated in a nepheline-diopside-kspar (+olivine+leucite) projection. Compositional curvature on the plagioclase+clinopyroxene+olivine+leucite cotectic offers a mechanism to explain resorption of plagioclase in alkalic groundmass assemblages and the incompatibility of albite and leucite. This projection is useful for evaluating the extent of assimilation of the alkalic portions of crustal granulites. Assimilation appears to have played some role in the advanced differentiates from Karisimbi.


Olivine Nepheline Picrite Leucite Liquidus Projection 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard O. Sack
    • 1
  • David Walker
    • 2
  • Ian S. E. Carmichael
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and Department of Geological Sciences of Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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