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Some volcanologic aspects of Columbia River basalt volcanism relevant to the extinction controversyThe Columbia River Basalt Group is the youngest and most thoroughly studied flood-basalt province known; information about it should be relevant to questions about the possible relation of flood-basalt volcanism to mass extinctions. The group has a total volume of about 174,000 cu km and covers an area of about 164,000 sq km. It was erupted between 17.5 and 6 Ma, as measured by K-Ar and Ar-40/Ar-39 dates. Early eruptions formed the Imnaha Basalt. More than 85 percent of the group was produced during a 1.5 my period between 17 and 15.5 Ma, forming the Grande Ronde and greatly subordinate Picture Gorge Basalts. Later flows formed the Wanapum Basalt, which includes the well-known Roza Member, and the Saddle Mountains Basalt. Linear vent systems for many of the flows are known and are located only in the eastern third of the Columbia Plateau. No systematic migration of vents occurred throughout the 11.5 my period of activity; this and other considerations make it unlikely that the province is related to a hot spot. Model calculations based on observations that little cooling occurred during flow of hundreds of kilometers suggest eruption and emplacement durations of a few days. Some voluminous flows occur in all formations, but most such flows apparently were erupted during Grande Ronde time. The eruption and emplacement of more than 1,000 cu km of 1100 C basaltic lava on the surface within several days doubtless had at least local meteorologic effects. Whether the effects were broader can at present only be hypothesized. Grande Ronde Basalt and Picture Gorge Basalts contain moderately common but thin sedimentary interbeds between flows, whereas earlier and later formations contain numerous, locally thick sediment accumulations. Volcaniclastic debris derived from extra-plateau sources commonly occurs in the testbeds.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Swanson, Donald A.
(Geological Survey Vancouver, WA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 5, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1988
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Global Catastrophes in Earth History: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Impacts, Volcanism, and Mass Mortality
Subject Category
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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