Abstract

The Prinsen of Wales Bjerge (PWB), part of the Tertiary volcanic province of East Greenland, consists of tholeiitic basalts overlain by alkalic basalts that were erupted 100–150 km west of the original axis of continental rifting and active ocean-floor development during the creation of the North Atlantic Ocean. They have many features of continental flood basalts but are somewhat enriched in Fe and in Ti relative to Fe and have slightly lower Al2O3. They have slight enrichments in the light rare-earth elements (La/Yb = 3–4). A nunatak within the PWB displays four cycles of tholeiitic basalt, each about 50 m thick, which are defined by trace-element variations (Ni, Cr, Sr, Zr, and Zr/Y). In three of the four cycles the lowermost flows are the most highly differentiated, and successive flows are increasingly primitive. These changes are thought to be the result of frequent injection of primitive, mantle-derived tholeiitic magma into small crustal magma chambers that contain evolved tholeiitic magma. The resultant mixing and expulsion of hybrid magma produce flows of small volume (0.01–0.03 km3) that display increasingly primitive character upward within each cycle (increasing Mg# and decreasing content of incompatible elements). This process is expected to be more efficient in small reservoirs than in the very large magma chambers that have been invoked by previous exponents of the differentiation–replenishment hypothesis. We suggest that cyclical volcanism in areas well back from the line of active rifting may be more common than is realized and is controlled by the fractionation–magma-replenishment process operating in numerous small reservoirs in an extensively fractured continental crust.

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