Volatile and light lithophile elements in high-anorthite plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions from Iceland

Geochemcial records of mantle processes are progressively degraded as magmas differentiate and ascend towards the Earth’s surface. This degradation is particularly severe in the case of volatiles (H2O, CO2, F, S and Cl) that decouple from melts upon reaching vapour saturation. Melt inclusions – pools of silicate liquid that are partially insulated from changes in the external magmatic enronment by their host crystals – are thus appealing targets for investigating the behvaiour of magmatic volatiles. Although numerous recent studies have critically evaluated the effects of syn- and post-entrapment modification on olivine-hosted melt inclusion compositions, little comparable information is available for plagioclase-hosted systems, depite plagioclase’s abundance in mafic magmas.

In order to address this imbalance in undertanding between olivine-hosted and plagioclase-hosted systems, we present volatile and light lithophile element analyses from a large number of mainly plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions from the 10 ka Grímsvötn tephra series from Iceland. Major and trace element data have already  been presented in study into the pre-eruptive evolution and storage of the tephra series (Neave et al., 2015).

Volatile-trace element systematics in matrix glasses and melt inclusions used to distinguish between pre-, syn- and post-entrapment signals of variability. Figure from Neave et al. (2017).

The uniformly low CO2 content of melt inclusions cannot be explained by either shallow entrapment or shrinkage bubble formation, suggesting that inclusion CO2 contents were controlled by decrepitation instead. High H2O/Ce values in primitive plagioclase-hosted inclusions (182–823) are most easily accounted for by diffusive H2O gain following the entrainment of primitive macrocrysts into H2O-rich melts a few days before eruption (e.g., Hartley et al., 2015). Extreme F enrichments in primitive plagioclase-hosted inclusions (F/Nd = 51–216 versus 15 in matrix glasses) possibly reflect the entrapment of inclusions from high-Al/(Al+Si) melt pools formed by dissolution-crystallisation processes (as indicated by HFSE depletions in some inclusions), and into which F was concentrated by uphill di ffusion: F is highly soluble in Al-rich melts. The high S/Dy of inclusions (300) indicates that primary melts were rich in S in comparison with most oceanic basalts. Although primitive plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions from the 10 ka Grímsvötn tephra series record few primary signals in their volatile element contents they nevertheless record information about crustal magma processing that is absent from olivine-hosted melt inclusions suites.


Neave, D.A., Hartley, M.E., Maclennan, J., Edmonds, M. & Thordarson, T. 2017.  Volatile and light lithophile elements in high-anorthite plagioclase-hosted melt inclusions from Iceland. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 205, 110–118. <Open access>

Diffusive over-hydration of olivine-hosted melt inclusions

Olivine-hosted melt inclusions are ofen used to estimate the pre-eruptive H2O content of magmas (Métrich & Wallace, 2008). However, it has been noted for a number of years that H2O appears to ‘leak’ out of melt inclusions during ascent and eruption (Massare et al., 2002; Chen et al., 2013). Rare cases of H2O gain have also been noted (Kolezsar et al., 2009). Recent experiments and modelling has clarified the mechanisms of H2O loss– by diffusive re-equilibration through the host crystal – and has opened up the possibily of extracting timescales from the extent of H2O exchange (Gaetani et al., 2012; Bucholz et al., 2013).

In this study, led by Margaret Hartley at the University of Manchester, we showed that different populations of melt inclusions from the Laki and Skuggafjöll eruptions in the Eastern Volcanic Zone of Iceland experienced diffusive loss or diffusive gain of H2O. Some rapidly quenched melt inclusions from the Laki tephra and subglacially-quenched pillow glasses from Skuggafjöll had coherent H2O/Ce values of ~180 that we interpreted as the primary mantle value (e.g., Michael, 1995). However, many inclusions from the Laki lava flow had very low H2O/Ce values consistent with H2O loss during transport in an extensive lava tube network at the surface. Conversely, most inclusions from Skuggafjöll, as well as most low-Ce, primitive inclusions from Laki, had elevated H2O/Ce values of up to ~1000 that are indicative of H2O gain during storage in the crust.

A figure from Hartley et al. (2015) summarising the processes by which diffusive loss and gain of H2O has been observed in the Laki and Skuggafjöll eruptions.

Using the diffusive re-equilibration model of Bucholz et al. (2013), we placed minimum constraints on the residence times of dehydrated inclusions in the Laki lava flow and over-hydrated inclusions in evolved melts immediately prior to the eruptions. The timescales were on the order of days to tens of days in both cases. Finally, we demonstrated that diffusive gain, as well as diffusive loss, can be observed in a number of global datasets where primitive, H2O-poor inclusions are mixed into more enriched and/or evolved melts before eruption. Thus, rather than viewing the open system nature of olivine-hosted melt inclusions as weakness, it can be exploited to gain further insights into pre-eruptive magma processes.


Hartley, M.E., Neave, D.A., Maclennan, J., Edmonds, M. & Thordarson, T. 2015. Diffusive over-hydration of olivine-hosted melt inclusions. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 425, 168–178. <Open Access>