Development of major element proxies for magmatic H2O content in oceanic basalts

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Analysis of H2O concentrations in quenched glass has enabled significant improvements in our understanding of its role in mantle melting, magma differentiation, eruption dynamics, and the origin of mantle heterogeneity. Direct measurements of dissolved H2O in glass, however, are not always possible, and we lack robust methods of constraining magmatic H2O contents in aphyric, bulk rock samples that lack glass. Here, we present a major element hygrometer for mid-ocean ridge (MOR) and back-arc basin (BAB) basalt magmas based on the sensitivity of phenocryst phase assemblages to magmatic H2O contents, which translate into resolvable differences in liquid lines of descent (LLDs) as a function of magmatic H2O concentrations. Existing hygrometers lack sufficient resolution to be useful at the low H2O concentrations typical of MOR and BAB basalts (<1.0 wt%). We develop the major element proxy, Al2O3/FeO*(7.0) (fractionation-corrected to 7 wt% MgO), for determining magmatic H2O contents using cogenetic suites of oceanic basalts with well-defined LLDs and well-constrained H2O contents. H2O(7.0) positively correlates with Al2O3/FeO*(7.0) in the mid-ocean ridge basalt dataset, and this relationship is maintained in back-arc basin basalts with a broader range of water contents (up to 2.0 wt%). The main petrological control over this covariation is the role of H2O in suppressing plagioclase crystallization, while crystallization pressure and magmatic oxygen fugacity play lesser roles. Herein, we present an empirical model that uses Al2O3/FeO*(7.0) to estimate the magmatic water content in plagioclase-saturated oceanic basaltic magmas: H2O(7.0) = 1.109Al2O3/FeO∗(7.0) − 1.111. This model enables the estimation of magmatic H2O content using whole-rock major element data, which can be readily determined for aphyric or crystalline lavas that lack quenched glassy rinds, melt inclusions, or appropriate phenocryst assemblages.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Chemical Geology