The Columbia River Basalts

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Science  19 Mar 1982:
Vol. 215, Issue 4539, pp. 1463-1468
DOI: 10.1126/science.215.4539.1463


Between 17 million and 6 million years ago, 200,000 square kilometers of the American Northwest were flooded by basaltic lava that erupted through fissures in the crust up to 150 kilometers long. Larger individual eruptions covered over a third of the Columbia Plateau in a few days. The lavas represent partial melts of the earth's mantle that were only slightly modified by near-surface, upper crustal processes. The abundant chemical and mineralogical data now available offer an opportunity to study mantle composition and the processes involved in the evolution of the earth's crust.