Abstract

The rifted eastern North American margin (ENAM) provides important clues to the long-term evolution of continental margins. An Eocene volcanic swarm exposed in the Appalachian Valley and Ridge Province of Virginia and West Virginia (USA) contains the youngest known igneous rocks in the ENAM. These magmas provide the only window into the most recent deep processes contributing to the postrift evolution of this margin. Here we present new 40Ar/39Ar ages, geochemical data, and radiogenic isotopes that constrain the melting conditions and the timing of emplacement. Modeling of the melting conditions on primitive basalts yielded an average temperature and pressure of 1412 ± 25 °C and 2.32 ± 0.31 GPa, corresponding to a mantle potential temperature of ∼1410 °C, suggesting melting conditions slightly higher than average mantle temperatures beneath mid-ocean ridges. When compared with magmas from Atlantic hotspots, the Eocene ENAM samples share isotopic signatures with the Azores and Cape Verde. This similarity suggests the possibility of a large-scale dissemination of similar sources in the upper mantle left over from the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. Asthenosphere upwelling related to localized lithospheric delamination is a possible process that can explain the intraplate signature of these magmas that lack evidence of a thermal anomaly. This process can also explain the Cenozoic dynamic topography and evidence of rejuvenation of the central Appalachians.

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