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Cosmogenic 3He in terrestrial rocks: The summit lavas of Maui

  • H. Craig
  • R. J. Poreda
Publication Date
Apr 01, 1986


We have identified terrestrial cosmic rayproduced 3He in three lava flows on the crest of Haleakala Volcano on Maui, 3 km above sea level, and ≈0.5 million years old. Although these lavas, like all oceanic basalts, contain primordial 3He from the mantle, the “cosmogenic” component (3HeC) can be identified unambiguously because it is extractable only by high-temperature vacuum fusion. In contrast, a large fraction of the mantle helium resides in fluid inclusions and can be extracted by vacuum crushing, leaving a residual component with 3He/4He ratios as high as 75× those in the atmosphere, which can be liberated by melting the crushed grains. Cosmogenic 3He is present in both olivines and clinopyroxenes at 0.8-1.2 × 10-12 ml(STP)/g and constitutes 75% ± 5% of the total 3He present. The observed 3HeC levels require a cosmic ray exposure age of only some 64,000 years, much less than the actual age of the lavas, if there is no erosion. Using a model that includes effects of uplift or submergence as well as erosion, we calculate an apparent “erosion rate” of the order of 8.5 m/106 years for the western rim of the summit crater, as an example of the application of measurements of cosmogenic rare gases to terrestrial geological problems.

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