The Impact of Climate-Driven Lake Level Changes on Mantle Melting in Continental Rifts

Liang Xue, James D. Muirhead, Robert Moucha, Lachlan J.M. Wright, Christopher A. Scholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate cycles fundamentally control surface processes that affect the distribution of water and sediment, and their associated loads, across the Earth's surface. Here, we use a geodynamic model to examine how water loading can affect mantle melt generation in continental rift settings covered by deep lakes. Our modeling results suggest that lake level fluctuations can modulate the timing and rate of mantle melting. A rapid lake level drop of 800 m has the potential to increase mantle melt volumes by enhancing mantle upwelling beneath the rift, whereas a lake level rise can lead to a reduction of mantle melting. The volume of melt produced driven by lake level fluctuations is also dependent on crustal rheology, extension rate, mantle potential temperature, and lithosphere thickness. Our study identifies the importance of water loading for controlling rift processes, while also demonstrating critical links between changing climate, rift evolution and mantle melting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2023GL103905
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 28 2023


  • continental rift
  • hydro-loading
  • magmatism
  • rift basin
  • rift lake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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