International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 103, Issue 7, pp 2101–2127 | Cite as

Volatile (H2O, CO2, Cl, S) budget of the Central American subduction zone

  • A. Freundt
  • I. Grevemeyer
  • W. Rabbel
  • T. H. Hansteen
  • C. Hensen
  • H. Wehrmann
  • S. Kutterolf
  • R. Halama
  • M. Frische
Original Paper


After more than a decade of multidisciplinary studies of the Central American subduction zone mainly in the framework of two large research programmes, the US MARGINS program and the German Collaborative Research Center SFB 574, we here review and interpret the data pertinent to quantify the cycling of mineral-bound volatiles (H2O, CO2, Cl, S) through this subduction system. For input-flux calculations, we divide the Middle America Trench into four segments differing in convergence rate and slab lithological profiles, use the latest evidence for mantle serpentinization of the Cocos slab approaching the trench, and for the first time explicitly include subduction erosion of forearc basement. Resulting input fluxes are 40–62 (53) Tg/Ma/m H2O, 7.8–11.4 (9.3) Tg/Ma/m CO2, 1.3–1.9 (1.6) Tg/Ma/m Cl, and 1.3–2.1 (1.6) Tg/Ma/m S (bracketed are mean values for entire trench length). Output by cold seeps on the forearc amounts to 0.625–1.25 Tg/Ma/m H2O partly derived from the slab sediments as determined by geochemical analyses of fluids and carbonates. The major volatile output occurs at the Central American volcanic arc that is divided into ten arc segments by dextral strike-slip tectonics. Based on volcanic edifice and widespread tephra volumes as well as calculated parental magma masses needed to form observed evolved compositions, we determine long-term (105 years) average magma and K2O fluxes for each of the ten segments as 32–242 (106) Tg/Ma/m magma and 0.28–2.91 (1.38) Tg/Ma/m K2O (bracketed are mean values for entire Central American volcanic arc length). Volatile/K2O concentration ratios derived from melt inclusion analyses and petrologic modelling then allow to calculate volatile fluxes as 1.02–14.3 (6.2) Tg/Ma/m H2O, 0.02–0.45 (0.17) Tg/Ma/m CO2, and 0.07–0.34 (0.22) Tg/Ma/m Cl. The same approach yields long-term sulfur fluxes of 0.12–1.08 (0.54) Tg/Ma/m while present-day open-vent SO2-flux monitoring yields 0.06–2.37 (0.83) Tg/Ma/m S. Input–output comparisons show that the arc water fluxes only account for up to 40 % of the input even if we include an “invisible” plutonic component constrained by crustal growth. With 20–30 % of the H2O input transferred into the deeper mantle as suggested by petrologic modeling, there remains a deficiency of, say, 30–40 % in the water budget. At least some of this water is transferred into two upper-plate regions of low seismic velocity and electrical resistivity whose sizes vary along arc: one region widely envelopes the melt ascent paths from slab top to arc and the other extends obliquely from the slab below the forearc to below the arc. Whether these reservoirs are transient or steady remains unknown.


Subduction input Forearc dewatering Arc magmatism Subduction fluids 



We thank David Pyle and an anonymous reviewer, as well as Erwin Suess as topic editor, for critical comments that greatly helped to improve this paper. This publication is contribution no. 261 of the Sonderforschungsbereich 574 “Volatiles and Fluids in Subduction Zones” at Kiel University.

Supplementary material

531_2014_1001_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (90 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 90 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Freundt
    • 1
  • I. Grevemeyer
    • 1
  • W. Rabbel
    • 2
  • T. H. Hansteen
    • 1
  • C. Hensen
    • 1
  • H. Wehrmann
    • 1
  • S. Kutterolf
    • 1
  • R. Halama
    • 2
    • 3
  • M. Frische
    • 1
  1. 1.SFB 574GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany
  2. 2.SFB 574, Institute for GeosciencesChristian Albrechts UniversityKielGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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