Regional averages of the major element chemistry of ocean ridge basalts, corrected for low-pressure fractionation, correlate with regional averages of axial depth for the global system of ocean ridges, including hot spots, cold spots, and back arc basins, as well as “normal” ocean ridges. Quantitative consideration of the variations of each major element during melting of the mantle suggests that the global major element variations can be accounted for by ∼8–20% melting of the mantle at associated mean pressures of 5–16 kbar. The lowest extents of melting occur at shallowest depths in the mantle and are associated with the deepest ocean ridges. Calculated mean primary magmas show a range in composition from 10 to 15 wt % MgO, and the primary magma compositions correlate with depth. Data for Sm, Yb, Sc, and Ni are consistent with the major elements, but highly incompatible elements show more complicated behavior. In addition, some hot spots have anomalous chemistry, suggesting major element heterogeneity. Thermal modeling of mantle ascending adiabatically beneath the ridge is consistent with the chemical data and melting calculations, provided the melt is tapped from throughout the ascending mantle column. The thermal modeling independently predicts the observed relationships among basalt chemistry, ridge depth, and crustal thickness resulting from temperature variations in the mantle. Beneath the shallowest and deepest ridge axes, temperature differences of approximately 250°C in the subsolidus mantle are required to account for the global systematics.