Observations and implications of spatial complexity in hotspot volcanism
Kundargi, Rohan Kiran
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One of the defining characteristics of hotspot volcanism is the presence of a long-lived, linear chain of age-progressive volcanoes created by the movement of the lithosphere over a stationary melting anomaly. However, the spatial distribution of volcanism at hotspots is often complex and highly variable suggesting that the relationship between magma generation and magma transport at hotspots is poorly understood. Here, I present the results of the first systematic quantitative characterization of the spatial distribution of volcanism at oceanic hotspots. In the first study I develop a novel methodology to characterize the across-strike distribution of volcanism at hotspots and apply it to a catalog of 40 oceanic hotpots. I find that only 25% (10/40) of hotspots exhibit the simple single-peak profile predicted by geodynamic models of melt generation in mantle plumes. The remaining 75% (30/40) of hotspots exhibit a dual- or multi-peak pattern. In the second study, I focus on the across-strike distribution of volcanism at the oceanic hotspots that are sourced by a deep-rooted mantle plume. 14 out of the 15 consensus plume-fed hotspots exhibit a dual-peaked across-strike profile. The spacing between these peaks display a strong negative correlation with lithospheric age, in direct contrast to models of inter-volcanic spacing controlled by elastic plate thickness. This relation suggests a different mechanism controls volcanic spacing at plume-fed hotspots. In the third chapter, I investigate variations in the average topographic profiles over time along the two longest and best-constrained oceanic hotspot tracks: Hawaii and Louisville. I find that the dual-peak across-strike profile of volcanism is a persistent feature at the Louisville hotspot over the entire length of the track examined (spanning a period of more than 65 Myr). In contrast, the dual-peak profile of volcanism at Hawaii is only evident along the most recent portion of the track (i.e., over the last 5 Myr). In total, this thesis represents a significant step foreword in the collective understanding of hotspot volcanism, and introduces a new diagnostic tool for analysis of hotspot influenced seafloor topography.