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The amount of carbon present in Earth’s mantle affects the dynamics of melting, volcanic eruption style and the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere via planetary outgassing. Mantle carbon concentrations are difficult to quantify because most magmas are strongly degassed upon eruption. Here we report undegassed carbon concentrations from a new set of olivine-hosted melt inclusions from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We use the correlations of CO2 with trace elements to define an average carbon abundance for the upper mantle. Our results indicate that the upper mantle carbon content is highly heterogeneous, varying by almost two orders of magnitude globally, with the potential to produce large geographic variations in melt fraction below the volatile-free solidus. Such heterogeneity will manifest as variations in the depths at which melt becomes interconnected and detectable, the CO2 fluxes at mid-ocean ridges, the depth of the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary, and mantle conductivity.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.