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Published May 10, 1996 | Published
Journal Article Open

Introduction to special section: Hawaii Scientific Drilling Project


Intraplate or "hot spot" volcanic island chains, exemplified by Hawaii, play an important role in plate tectonic theory as reference points for absolute plate motions, but the origin of these volcanoes is not explained by the plate tectonic paradigm [Engebretson et al., 1985; Molnar and Stock, 1987; Morgan, 1971, 1981, 1983; Wilson, 1963]. The most widely held view is that these chains of volcanoes form from magma generated by decompression melting of localized, buoyant upwellings in the mantle [Ribe and Christensen, 1994; Richards et al., 1988; Sleep, 1990; Watson and McKenzie, 1991] . These upwellings, or "plumes," are believed to originate at boundary layers in the mantle (e.g., at the core-mantle boundary or near the boundary at-670 km between the upper and lower mantle), and the cause of the buoyancy may be both compositional and thermal [Campbell and Griffiths, 1990; Griffiths, 1986; Richards et al., 1988; Watson and McKenzie, 1991]. Mantle plumes are responsible for about 10% of the Earth's heat loss and constitute an important mechanism for cycling mass from the deep mantle to the Earth's surface. Studies of the chemical and isotopic compositions of lavas from intraplate volcanoes, especially ocean island volcanoes, have contributed significantly to our knowledge of magma genesis in the mantle [Carmichael et al., 1974; Macdonald et al., 1983] and the compositional heterogeneity of the mantle [Allègre et al., 1983; Hart, 1988; Hart et al., 1986; Kurz et al., 1983]. Of particular importance is the identification of distinct compositional end members in the mantle, the origin and distribution of which provide insight into the long-term differentiation of the mantle-crust system, the recycling of oceanic crust and continental sediment into the mantle, and the history of the lithosphere [Allègre et al., 1995; Farley et al., 1992; Hart, 1988; Hofmann and White, 1982; McKenzie and O'Nions, 1983; Weaver, 1991; Zindler and Hart, 1986].

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© 1996 American Geophysical Union. Received 19 January 1996; accepted 26 January 1996; published 10 May 1996.

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