- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Convergent margins (oceanic and continental arcs) form one of the Earth’s key mass transfer locations, being sites where melting and transfer of new material to the Earth’s crust occurs and also where crustal materials, including water, are recycled back into the mantle. Volcanism in this tectonic setting constitutes ~15% (0.4–0.6 km3/yr) of the total global output (Crisp 1984) and the composition of the erupted magmas is, on average, similar to that of the continental crust (Taylor and McLennan 1981). Moreover, many arc volcanoes have been responsible for the most hazardous, historic volcanic eruptions. Yet, despite their importance, many fundamental aspects of convergent margin magmatism remain poorly understood. Key among these are the rates of processes of fluid addition from the subducting plate. Furthermore, in stark contrast to the ocean ridges, where adiabatic decompression provides a simple and robust physical model for partial melting, no consensus has yet been reached about the physics of the partial melting process and the mechanism of melt extraction beneath arcs.
Preceding chapters concerned with partial melting in this volume (Lundstrom 2003; Bourdon and Sims 2003) have discussed how the differing half-lives and distribution coefficients of the various U-series nuclides result in disequilibria through in-growth. This provides important information on the nature and timing of mantle partial melting processes. In convergent margin settings the differential fluid mobility of U and Ra relative to Th and Pa provides an additional source of fractionation leading to in-growth and this is crucial to understanding the timing and mechanisms of fluid addition. Here we review the role that the proliferation of high quality U-series isotope data, over the last decade, have had in obtaining precise information on time scales and the development of quantitative physical models for convergent margin magmatism. Our approach is to use trace element …