Flood Basalts and Hot-Spot Tracks: Plume Heads and Tails

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Science  06 Oct 1989:
Vol. 246, Issue 4926, pp. 103-107
DOI: 10.1126/science.246.4926.103


Continental flood basalt eruptions have resulted in sudden and massive accumulations of basaltic lavas in excess of any contemporary volcanic processes. The largest flood basalt events mark the earliest volcanic activity of many major hot spots, which are thought to result from deep mantle plumes. The relative volumes of melt and eruption rates of flood basalts and hot spots as well as their temporal and spatial relations can be explained by a model of mantle plume initiation: Flood basalts represent plume "heads" and hot spots represent continuing magmatism associated with the remaining plume conduit or "tail." Continental rifting is not required, although it commonly follows flood basalt volcanism, and flood basalt provinces may occur as a natural consequence of the initiation of hot-spot activity in ocean basins as well as on continents.

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