The Robustness of Sr/Y and La/Yb as Proxies for Crust Thickness in Modern Arcs
Trace element (TE) ratios of convergent-margin magmas have been found to vary systematically with arc crustal thicknesses. Here we use statistical smoothing techniques along with Sr/Y and La/Yb trace element Moho depth proxies to determine crustal thickness along the volcanic front for three arc segments: the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes arc, the Central America arc at Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and segments of the Alaska-Aleutian Islands arc (northwesternmost USA). The results are comparable to those from seismic surveys. TE depth proxies give ~70 km crust thickness beneath the Central Volcanic Zone's Altiplano region and show thinner crust (60 km for La/Yb, 43 km for Sr/Y) as the volcanic line crosses into the Puna region. In Central America, the proxy analyses show crustal thickness changes between the Chorotega block and the Nicaragua depression, with both proxies agreeing for Nicaragua (~27 km) but with La/Yb giving considerable thicker (~45 km) crust than Sr/Y (~30 km) for Chorotega. For these two arc segments, the La/Yb proxy approximated the seismically inferred Moho depth to within 10 km for the entire profile, but the Sr/Y proxy-estimated crustal thicknesses diverge from those of the La/Yb proxy and seismic methods in the thin-crust regions. For the Alaska-Aleutian arc, both TE proxies indicate that crust varies from thick (~35 km) for the western Aleutian segment (175°E to 175°W), to thin (~22 km) for the transitional segment (175°W to 158°W), to thick (35+ km) for the eastern Alaska Peninsula (158°W to 150°W). Geophysical estimates favor a crustal thickness of 30-40 km for the same region. We propose that statistically treated geochemistry-based proxies can provide useful estimates of crustal thickness when estimates from Sr/Y and La/Yb agree. We investigated the disagreement in the Alaska-Aleutian case in more detail. Alaska-Aleutian crustal thickness was found to correlate with calc-alkaline (CA) versus tholeiitic (TH) segments of the arc, as represented by along-arc smoothing of the volcanoes' CA-TH indices. The thin crust of the transitional segment trends TH while the thicker crust of the flanking segments trend CA. We find that crustal thickness also plays a role in inferred magma flux (here approximated by volcano volume), with greater flux associated with thinner crust. Thin crust beneath the Alaska-Aleutian transitional segment may reflect continuing loss of cumulates from the lower crust and/or lithospheric mantle into the asthenosphere, leading to enhanced melting beneath this region. © 2019 The Authors.