A Mantle Plume Initiation Model for the Wrangellia Flood Basalt and Other Oceanic Plateaus

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Science  11 Oct 1991:
Vol. 254, Issue 5029, pp. 263-267
DOI: 10.1126/science.254.5029.263


The vast Wrangellia terrane of Alaska and British Columbia is an accreted oceanic plateau with Triassic strata that contain a 3- to 6-kilometers thick flood basalt, bounded above and below by marine sedimentary rocks. This enormous outpouring of basalt was preceded by rapid uplift and was followed by gradual subsidence of the plateau. The uplift and basalt eruptions occurred in less than ∼5 million years, and were not accompanied by significant extension or rifting of the lithosphere. This sequence of events is predicted by a mantle plume initiation, or plume head, model that has recently been developed to explain continental flood volcanism. Evidence suggests that other large oceanic basalt plateaus, such as the Ontong-Java, Kerguelen, and Caribbean, were formed as the initial outbursts of the Louisville Ridge, Kerguelen, and Galapagos hot spots, respectively. Such events may play an important role in the creation and development of both oceanic and continental crust.