Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geology

First Advisor

Conder, James

Abstract

Valu Fa and Eastern Lau `s (two regions along Lau's back-arc spreading center) observed axial morphology suggest that Valu Fa is more magmatically robust than Eastern Lau despite Eastern Lau's spreading rate nearly doubling Valu Fa's. Early geochemical [Pearce et al., 1994] and geophysical [Martinez and Taylor, 2002] studies predict a gradational decrease in melting moving north from Valu Fa to Eastern Lau, but more recent geochemical and seismic observations ([Escrig, .et al 2009]; [Dunn and Martinez, 2011]; [Dunn et al., 2011]) show a sharper stepwise decrease in melting as the spreading center's ridge axis sweeps away from the Tofua Volcanic-Arc. As the ridge sweeps away from the volcanic-arc, the influence of the slab hydrated mantle in the melting structure of the ridge decreases. Furthermore, Eastern Lau produces a thinner crust than expected for a robust spreading center. 2-D numerical studies [Harmon and Blackmon, 2010] show a gradational decrease in melting from Valu Fa to Eastern Lau but with no corresponding thinning of Eastern Lau's crust. To understand the melting dynamics underneath Lau's back-arc spreading center and the Tofua Volcanic-Arc implementing the effects of 3-D mantle flow and slab hydration appears to be required. To explain the observed geochemical and seismic observations, three 3-D numerical were performed, using a community developed mantle convection solver (CitcomS). The first model shows that observed geometric and surface kinematic boundary conditions cause a steep gradational increase in relative melting area (anhydrous) moving northward with increasing spreading rate along the ridge axis from Valu Fa to Eastern Lau caused by a northwestern along axis mantle flow. A peak in the relative melting area appears particularly close to Eastern Lau where crust is thinnest. These predictions run in opposition to the observations. The second model shows including a viscosity reduction in the mantle wedge due to slab hydration causes a more subdued relative melting increase with spreading rate and "saddle" shaped decrease in relative melting area north of 20.9°S. This saddle shaped melting structure is caused by a reversal in along axis flow towards the southeast, which takes hot mantle from Eastern Lau and transports it underneath Valu Fa accounting for the anomalously thin crust observed at Eastern Lau. Finally, introducing a hydrated solidus increases the melt production under Valu Fau and causes a stepwise decrease in melt production at Eastern Lau due to its decreased proximity to the slab-hydrated region, consistent with the observed geochemical and seismic studies.

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