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Journal Articles Comptes Rendus. Géoscience Year : 2007

The origin of rare gases on Earth: The noble gas `subduction barrier' revisited


The origin of the Earth's atmosphere can be constrained by the study of noble gases in oceanic basalts. If it is clear that the mantle is degassed and formed part of the present atmosphere, it has been proposed that an important subduction of atmospheric noble gases in the mantle occurred during Earth's history, altering the primordial signature of the solid Earth. This subduction process has been suggested on the basis of the measurements of light xenon isotopes in CO 2 well gases. Moreover, the fact that the 38Ar/ 36Ar ratio is atmospheric in all oceanic basalts, even for uncontaminated samples (e.g. with high 20Ne/ 22Ne), may also suggest that a massive subduction of atmospheric argon occurred, if the primitive Earth had a solar-like 38Ar/ 36Ar. This also implies that the atmosphere suffered a massive gas loss accompanied by mass fractionation (e.g. hydrodynamic escape) after mantle degassing or that a late veneer with an atmospheric composition occurred. Such a hypothesis is explored for rare gases, by developing a model in which degassing and subduction of atmospheric noble gases started ∼4.4 Ga ago. In the model, both radiogenic and non-radiogenic isotopic ratios are used (e.g. 38Ar/ 36Ar and 40Ar/ 36Ar; 124Xe/ 130Xe and 129Xe/ 130Xe) to constrain the subduction flux and the degassing parameters. It is shown that subduction and massive contamination of the entire mantle is possible, but implies that the 40Ar/ 36Ar and the 129Xe/ 130Xe ratios were higher in the past than today, which is not observed in Archean samples. It also implies that the sediments and the altered oceanic crust did not loose their noble gases during subduction or that the contaminated mantle wedge is mixed by the convective mantle. Moreover, such a model has to apply to the oceanic island source, since this later shows the same signature of argon and xenon non-radiogenic isotopic ratios. A scenario where the isotopic compositions of the argon and xenon were settled before or during accretion is therefore preferred to the subduction.

Dates and versions

insu-03603218 , version 1 (09-03-2022)



Manuel Moreira, Aude Raquin. The origin of rare gases on Earth: The noble gas `subduction barrier' revisited. Comptes Rendus. Géoscience, 2007, 339, pp.937-945. ⟨10.1016/j.crte.2007.09.009⟩. ⟨insu-03603218⟩
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