Columbia River flood basalts from a centralized crustal magmatic system

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Geological Sciences

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The Columbia River Basalt Group in the northwestern United States, comprising about 230,000 cubic kilometres of rock, exhibits unusual patterns in lava distribution, geochemistry and its apparent relationship to regional tectonics. Consequently, there is little consensus on the origin of its magmas. Here, we examine the isotopic ratios of Sr, Nd, Pb and Os and trace-element abundances in Columbia River basalts. The results suggest that most of the lava was produced when magma derived from a mantle plume assimilated continental crust in a central magma chamber system located at the boundary between the North American craton and the accreted terranes of Idaho and Oregon. Other, related basalts are the product of mixing between the mantle plume and different types of regional upper mantle. Magma was then transported over a wide region by an extensive network of dykes, a process that has been identified in other flood basalt provinces as well. Interactions of the plume with surrounding upper mantle, and of mantle-derived magmas with regional crust, provide a relatively simplemodel to explain the more unusual features of the main-phase Columbia River Basalts.


This article was originally published in Nature Geoscience. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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