On the origin of recent intraplate volcanism in Australia

D. Rhodri Davies, Nicholas Rawlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


The widespread occurrence of intraplate volcanism is difficult to explain using the primary features of plate tectonics, such as subduction at convergent boundaries or upwelling at rifted margins, which are responsible for most volcanism on Earth. Instead, other mechanisms are invoked, including mantle plumes, edge driven convection (EDC), shear driven upwelling (SDU) of the asthenosphere, lithospheric cracking, ductile removal of lithosphere via gravitational instability, glacial rebound and slab tear. Recently, EDC has been postulated as the trigger for Quaternary intraplate volcanism in Australia due to the proximity of a craton edge. However, the Precambrian shield region of the Australian continent has a boundary at least 10,000 km long, yet the Newer Volcanics Province (NVP) is contained within a 400 x 100 km region. This brings into question EDC as a causal mechanism unless an explanation can be found as to how it can nucleate at a single location. Here, we use a combination of seismic tomography and geodynamic modelling to show, for the first time, that (i) the source of the NVP is restricted to the upper mantle, and (ii) mantle upwelling induced by EDC is localised and intensified beneath the NVP as a result of 3-D variations in lithospheric thickness and plate motion induced SDU. This study helps to solve the global puzzle of why step changes in lithospheric thickness, which occur along craton edges and at passive margins, only produces volcanism at isolated locations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1034
Number of pages4
Issue number12
Early online date17 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

We thank John Foden, Maxim Ballmer, and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on the original manuscript. Davies acknowledges Cian Wilson and Stephan Kramer for support with Fluidity. Numerical simulations were undertaken at the NCI National Facility in Canberra, Australia, which is supported by the Australian Commonwealth Government.


  • intra-plate volcanism
  • seismic tomography
  • geodynamic modelling
  • Newer Volcanics Province
  • Australia


Dive into the research topics of 'On the origin of recent intraplate volcanism in Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this