The Volcanic Evolution of Martinique Island: Insights from K–Ar Dating into the Lesser Antilles Arc Migration since the Oligocene

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Martinique Island, Lesser Antilles, K-Ar dating, Arc migration, Aseismic ridges

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The Lesser Antilles island arc bifurcates into two lines in its northern part, with an old branch to the east and a recent active branch to the west. Martinique is located at the southern tip of the separation. The two arcs diverge northward, and at maximum divergence are separated by a 50 km wide depression. Despite this separation, which suggests a jump in volcanism, activity has been almost continuous in Martinique Island with a slow displacement of the eruptive centers to the west. Considering timing of emplacement, previous authors defined three cycles of activity, the old, intermediate and recent arcs, of Late Oligocene–Early Miocene, Mid Miocene and Late Miocene to present ages, respectively. The present study investigates the timing of emplacement of the volcanic units in Martinique Island in order to constrain the activity of the old and intermediate Lesser Antilles arcs, as recorded on this island. Unspiked K–Ar age determinations on groundmass and plagioclase separates (Cassignol–Gillot technique) were conducted on 20 samples from the old and intermediate volcanic chains. Martinique has evolved as eight distinct volcanic centers: (1) Basal Complex and Sainte Anne Series (24.8 ± 0.4–20.8 ± 0.4 Ma) for the old arc; (2) Vauclin–Pitault Chain (16.1 ± 0.2–8.44 ± 0.12 Ma) and (3) South-western Volcanism (9.18 ± 0.16–7.10 ± 0.10 Ma) for the intermediate arc; and (4) Morne Jacob volcano (5.14 ± 0.07–1.54 ± 0.03 Ma), (5) Trois Ilets Volcanism (2.358 ± 0.034 Ma and 346 ± 27 ka), (6) Carbet Complex (998 ± 14 to 322 ± 6 ka), (7) Mount Conil (543 ± 8 to 127 ± 2 ka) and (8) Mount Pelée (126 ± 2 ka to present) for the recent arc (Germa et al., 2010,Germa et al., 2011a).We propose migration rates of 1.1–1.4 km/Myr westward, toward the back arc region throughout the whole volcanic history of Martinique Island. These rates, together with geochemical evidence for a more enriched signature in the youngest magmas, are consistent with a geodynamic evolution involving the migration of the northern volcanic front away from the trench in response to the subduction of an aseismic ridge, possibly influenced by convergence between North-American and South-American plates.

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Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 208, issues 3-4, p. 122-135