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The magmatic architecture of continental flood basalts I : Observations from the Deccan Traps
  • Tushar Mittal,
  • Mark A. Richards,
  • Isabel M. Fendley
Tushar Mittal
University of California, Berkeley

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Mark A. Richards
University of California, Berkeley
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Isabel M. Fendley
University of California Berkeley
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Flood basalts are some of the largest magmatic events in Earth history, with intrusion and eruption of millions of km$^3$ of basaltic magma over a short time period ($\sim$ 1-5 Ma). A typical continental flood basalt (CFB) is emplaced in hundreds of individual eruptive episodes lasting decades to centuries with lava flow volumes of 10$^3$- 10$^4$ km$^3$. These large volumes have logically led to CFB models invoking large magma reservoirs ($>$ 10$^5$-10$^6$ km$^3$) within the crust or at Moho depth. Since there are currently no active CFB provinces, we must rely on observations of past CFBs with varying degrees of surface exposure to develop and test models. In the last few decades, significant improvements in geochronological, geochemical, paleomagnetic, volcanological, and paleo-proxy measurements have provided high-resolution constraints on CFB eruptive tempo - the volume, duration, and frequency of individual eruptive episodes. Using the well-studied Deccan Traps as an archetype for CFB systems, we compile multiple lines of evidence - geochronology, eruption tempo, dike spatial distribution, intrusive-extrusive ratio, geochemical variations, and volcanological observations - to assess the viability of previous models. We find that the presence of just a few large crustal magma reservoirs is inconsistent with these constraints. Although observations from the Deccan Traps primarily motivate our model, we discuss constraints from other CFBs to illustrate that this conclusion may be broadly applicable, with important implications for interpreting CFB geochemical datasets as well as the timing and volumes of climate-altering volatile emissions associated with CFBs.
Dec 2021Published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth volume 126 issue 12. 10.1029/2021JB021808