South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK

44-(0) 1865-272032

44-(0) 1865-272067

Prof. Anthony B. Watts

Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics

Mantle plumes: Geophysical evidence and dynamic models


Bouyant plumes that rise up through the asthenospheric mantle to impact moving lithospheric plates provide a simple and elegant explanation for the linear age progression of oceanic island and seamount chains and their associated mid-plate topographic swells. There is much current debate, however, concerning the existence of mantle plumes. This essay will review the critical geophysical observations that support the existence of plumes, the models that have been proposed for how plumes rise from the core-mantle boundary through a convecting mantle to impinge on the base of the lithosphere and the important role played by plumes in geological processes such as intra-plate volcanism and swell formation, continental break-up and rifting and landscape evolution.


Selected References:

Clouard, V., and A. Bonneville (2001), How many Pacific hotspots are fed by deep-mantle plumes?, Geology, 29, 695-698.

Crough, S. T. (1983), Hotspot swells, Ann. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 11, 165-193.

Foulger, G. R. (2002), Plumes, or plate tectonic processes?, Astronomy & Geophysics, 43, 6.19-16.23.

Phipps Morgan, J., W. J. Morgan, and E. Price (1995), Hotspot melting generates both hotspot volcanism and a hotspot swell?, J. Geophys. Res., 100, 8045-8062.

Ribe, N. M., and U. R. Christensen (1994), 3-dimensional modelling of plume-lithosphere interaction, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 669-682.

Romanowicz, B., and Y. Gung (2002), Superplumes from the core-mantle boundary to the lithosphere: Implications for heat flux, Science, 296, 513-.

Sleep, N. H. (1992), Hotspot Volcanism and Mantle Plumes, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 20, 19-43.

Watson, S., and D. P. McKenzie (1991), Melt generation by plumes: a study of Hawaiian volcanism, J. Petrology, 32, 501-537.

White, N., and B. Lovell (1997), Measuring the pulse of a plume with the sedimentary record, Nature, 387, 888-891.

Zhong, S., and A. B. Watts (2002), Constraints on the dynamics of mantle plumes from uplift of the Hawaiian Islands, Earth Planet. Sci. Letts., 203, 105-116.