Hawaiian Plume Dynamics

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Science  06 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5429, pp. 846-847
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5429.846

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The mantle underneath the Hawaiian Islands is one of the test beds for geologists' theories of mantle dynamics. One of the key questions that its study may answer is whether or not the mantle has been layered in the past, and whether it remains layered today. Blichert-Toft et al. (page 879) have studied the hafnium-neodymium isotope distribution of Hawaiian lavas which suggest that these lavas represent recycled deep-sea sediment materials which may have been subducted all the way to the lower mantle. Further evidence from seismology and geochemistry will be required to resolve the question at which depth the Hawaiian plume originates, and therefore whether mantle convection is layered.