Reagan Mark K.

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Timescales of magmatic processes and eruption ages of the Nyiragongo volcanics from 238U-230Th-226Ra-210Pb disequilibria

2009-09-04 , Chakrabarti, Ramananda , Sims, Kenneth W. W. , Basu, Asish R. , Reagan, Mark K. , Durieux, Jacques

The silica-undersaturated Nyiragongo volcanics, located in the East African rift, have globally unique chemical compositions and unusually low viscosities, only higher than carbonatite lavas, for terrestrial silicate magmas. We report 238U-230Th-226Ra-210Pb series disequilibria in 13 recent and prehistoric lava samples from Nyiragongo including those from the 2002 flank eruption and a 2003 lava lake sample. (230Th/238U) ranges from 0.90- 0.97 in the recent lavas and from 0.94-1.09 in the prehistoric lavas. To explain the variable 230Th and 238U excesses in these lavas, we hypothesize that different processes with opposite effects in terms of fractionating Th/U in the mantle source are involved. These processes include: 1) low degree partial melting of a phlogopite-bearing mantle source (consistent with low K/Rb) with residual garnet (consistent with high chondrite-normalized Dy/Yb), to produce the observed 230Th excesses; and, 2) carbonate metasomatism for the 238U enrichment, consistent with high Zr/Hf in the Nyiragongo lavas. The Nyiragongo volcanics have higher (230Th/232Th) values than observed in most mantle-derived rocks, especially ocean-island basalts, suggesting that their mantle-source was affected by carbonate metasomatism less than 300 ka ago. Several Nyiragongo samples display significant 226Ra excesses implying rapid magma transport (less than 8 ka) from the mantle-source to the surface. Modeling the observed (226Ra/230Th) versus Zr/Hf correlation in the lavas indicates that the 2002, 2003 and a few pre-historic lavas incorporated 50-60% of a carbonate-metasomatized mantle source while the other prehistoric lavas show 10-22% contribution of this source. This result indicates that the Nyiragongo lavas were derived from a heterogeneous, non-uniformly carbonated mantle source. The 2002 lava shows (210Pb/226Ra) equilibrium, whereas the 2003 lava lake sample shows initial (210Pb/226Ra) < 1. The latter observation suggests that Nyiragongo magmas degas as they rise to the surface over years or decades before eruption. (210Pb/226Ra) equilibrium in the 2002 lava suggests that the 2002 magma may have stagnated for more than a decade before eruption. The high CO2 content, high emission rates, extreme fluidity, along with the inferred short residence time and our inferences of rapid magma transport and high eruptive frequency suggest that the volcanic hazards of Nyiragongo, both from lava flows and gas emissions, are higher than previously estimated.