Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 164, Issue 4, pp 677–691 | Cite as

Timescales of convection in magma chambers below the Mid-Atlantic ridge from melt inclusions investigations

  • Aurélia ColinEmail author
  • François Faure
  • Pete Burnard
Original Paper


Closed hopper and complex swallowtail morphologies of olivine microcrysts have been described in the past in both mid-oceanic ridge basalts and subaerial tholeitic volcanoes and indicate fluctuations in magma undercooling. We describe similar morphologies in a Mid-Atlantic ridge pillow basalt (sample RD87DR10), and in addition we estimate the duration of temperature fluctuations required to produce these textures as follows: (1) Pairs of melt inclusions are arranged symmetrically around the centre of hopper crystals and each pair represents a heating–cooling cycle. Using the literature olivine growth rates relevant to the observed morphologies, and measuring the distance between two successive inclusions, we estimate the minimum time elapsed during one convection cycle. (2) The major element composition of melt inclusions (analysed by electron microprobe) was found to be in the range of the boundary layer measured in the glass surrounding the olivines, irrespective of their size. Several major elements demonstrate that this boundary layer results from rapid quenching on the seafloor, and not from crystal growth at depth, implying the inclusions had the same composition as the surrounding magma when they were sealed. Using diffusivity of slow diffusing elements such as Al2O3, we estimate the minimum time required for inclusion formation. These two independent approaches give concordant results: each cooling–heating cycle lasted between a few minutes and 1 h minimum. Thus, these crystals probably recorded thermal convection in small magmatic bodies (a dyke or shallow magma chamber) during the last hour or hours before eruption.


Magma chamber Convection timescale Olivine microcryst morphology Melt inclusion Mid-Atlantic ridge 



François Faure thanks L’Agence Nationale de la Recherche for financial support (grant ANR-07-BLAN-0130-CSD6, MIME). We thank Fidel Costa and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments which improved the final manuscript. This is CRPG contribution number 2169.

Supplementary material

410_2012_764_MOESM1_ESM.xls (16.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 17251 kb)
410_2012_764_MOESM2_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aurélia Colin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • François Faure
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pete Burnard
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de LorraineCentre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, UPR 2300Vandoeuvre les NancyFrance
  2. 2.CNRSCentre de Recherches Pétrographiques et GéochimiquesVandoeuvre les NancyFrance
  3. 3.Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamNetherlands

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