Production of Isotopic Variability in Continental Basalts by Cryptic Crustal Contamination

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Science  03 Jan 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5040, pp. 72-74
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5040.72


Regional variations in the Nd, Sr, and Pb isotopic compositions of Neogene basalts from the western United States are commonly interpreted to originate in the subcontinental mantle. In southern California, isotopic variability is restricted to lavas that lack mantle-derived xenoliths; xenolith-bearing basalts have uniform isotopic compositions similar to those of ocean-island basalts (OIBs). Combined with available geochemical data, these observations suggest that isotopic variability at these volcanoes results from subtle crustal contamination, locally by mafic crust, of primitive OIB-like magma. Recognition of such cryptic contamination may help to reconcile local discrepancies between tectonic and isotopic views of the subcontinental mantle.