Transient mantle cooling linked to regional volcanic shut-down and early rifting in the North Atlantic Igneous Province

John Millett* (Corresponding Author), Malcolm Hole, David Jolley, Simon R. Passey, Lucas M. Rossetti

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Paleocene to Early Eocene Faroe Islands Basalt Group (FIBG) comprises a c. 6.5-km-thick lava flow–dominated sequence located within the centre of the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP). The currently defined pre-breakup and syn-breakup sequences of the FIBG are separated by a significant volcanic hiatus, during which time the coal-bearing Prestfjall Formation was deposited. This major volcanic hiatus is identified across large parts of the NAIP and was preceded on the Faroe Islands by a reduction in eruption rate evidenced by an increased number and thickness of inter-lava sedimentary beds between the simple lava flows of the pre-breakup Beinisvørd Formation. High tempo eruptions resumed after this hiatus with the development of the compound lava flow fields of the Malinstindur Formation which reveal limited evidence for inter-lava breaks. In order to investigate this key transition, flow by flow geochemical sampling of a composite c.1.1-km-thick lava flow sequence spanning this transition were collected and analysed. Three chemically distinct groups are defined based on rare earth elements (REEs) and incompatible trace element signatures. Two high-Ti groups (TiO 2 > 2 wt%), B2 and B3, dominate the sampled Beinisvørd Formation and display light REE-enriched signatures (La/Yb N c. 2.9–5.9) and evidence for garnet in the source melting region (Dy/Yb N c. 1.5–1.6). At the very top of the Beinisvørd Formation, a distinct group of lava flows, B1, displaying lower TiO 2 for a given MgO wt% (TiO 2 c. 1–2 wt%), weakly light REE-enriched profiles (La/Yb N c. 1.7–2.4) and a spinel-dominated mantle melting signature (Dy/Yb N c. 1.1–1.2) is identified. Sr, Nd and Pb isotopic signatures for the three groups overlap, revealing limited evidence of crustal contamination, and therefore supporting a mantle melting origin for inter-group variations, rather than source composition or contamination. The group B1 lava flows form a unique stratigraphic occurrence on the islands and provide clear evidence for both a reduction in the initial pressure of melting, alongside an increase in the overall degree of partial melting relative to groups B2 and B3. Increased partial melting is interpreted as evidence for the early onset of rifting and lithospheric thinning to the north of the Faroe Islands. The accompanying reduction in initial pressure of melting provides the first petrological evidence that a transient reduction in mantle temperature leads to the province-wide volcanic hiatus. Our study demonstrates an intimate linkage between rifting history and fluctuations in mantle temperature highlighting that any over-arching model for the evolution of the NAIP must take both into equal account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number61
Number of pages27
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2020


  • Faroe Islands Basalt Group
  • Lava flow field correlation
  • Mantle temperature
  • NAIP
  • Transient mantle cooling


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