Low-productivity Hawaiian volcanism between Kaua‘i and O‘ahu



The longest distance between subaerial shield volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands is between the islands of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, where a field of submarine volcanic cones formed astride the axis of the Hawaiian chain during a period of low magma productivity. The submarine volcanoes lie ∼25–30 km west of Ka‘ena Ridge that extends ∼80 km from western O‘ahu. These volcanoes were sampled by three Jason2 dives. The cones are flat topped, <400 m high and 0.4–2 km in diameter at water depths between ∼2700 and 4300 m, and consist predominantly of pillowed flows. Ar-Ar and K-Ar ages of 11 tholeiitic lavas are between 4.9 and 3.6 Ma. These ages overlap with shield volcanism on Kaua‘i (5.1–4.0 Ma) and Wai‘anae shield basalts (3.9–3.1 Ma) on O‘ahu. Young alkalic lavas (circa 0.37 Ma) sampled southwest of Ka‘ena Ridge are a form of offshore secondary volcanism. Half of the volcanic cones contain high-SiO2 basalts (51.0–53.5 wt % SiO2). The trends of isotopic compositions of West Ka‘ena tholeiitic lavas diverge from the main Ko‘olau-Kea shield binary mixing trend in isotope diagrams and extend to lower 208Pb/204Pb and 206Pb/204Pb than any Hawaiian tholeiitic lava. West Ka‘ena tholeiitic lavas have geochemical and isotopic characteristics similar to volcanoes of the Loa trend. Hence, our results show that the Loa-type volcanism has persisted for at least 4.9 Myr, beginning prior to the development of the dual, subparallel chain of volcanoes. Several West Ka‘ena samples are similar to higher SiO2, Loa trend lavas of Ko‘olau Makapu‘u stage, Lāna‘i, and Kaho‘olawe; these lavas may have been derived from a pyroxenite source in the mantle. The high Ni contents of olivines in West Ka‘ena lavas also indicate contribution from pyroxenite-derived melting. Average compositions of Hawaiian shield volcanoes show a clear relation between 206Pb/204Pb and SiO2 within Loa trend volcanoes, which supports a prominent but variable influence of pyroxenite in the Hawaiian plume source. In addition, both Pb isotopes and volcano volume show a steady increase with time starting from a minimum west of Ka‘ena Ridge. The entrained mafic component in the Hawaiian plume is probably not controlling the increasing magma productivity in the Hawaiian Islands.