Abstract

When a tholeiitic liquid differentiates, it may give rise to either iron-poor, silica-rich (rhyolitic) differentiates or to iron-rich, silica-poor differentiates, as found in the Skaergaard intrusion. Iron-rich differentiated liquids are rare among erupted rocks, but are found in small quantities from several localities at divergent plate margins. Among the Tertiary basalts and intrusions in East Greenland, normal erupted basalts may be mixtures of primitive liquid and differentiated iron-rich liquid, which exists at depth but normally does not reach the surface because of its high density. The evolved liquids of the Skaergaard intrusion were of this kind. Data from mid-oceanic ridges confirm this view. We believe that iron-rich differentiated liquids, despite their scarcity on the surface, are much more voluminous at depth, as picrites, at the other side of the density minimum attained during liquid evolution, are thought to be. The trend toward iron enrichment develops when the tholeiitic magma differentiates in a closed system at a relatively low oxidation state, whereas the trend toward silica enrichment and iron depletion occurs when the magma has interacted with the oxidized and hydrated surroundings in the crust.

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