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Book Chapter

Emplacement characteristics, time scales, and volcanic gas release rates of continental flood basalt eruptions on Earth

By
S. Self
S. Self
Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK, and Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-9980, USA
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A. Schmidt
A. Schmidt
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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T.A. Mather
T.A. Mather
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK
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Published:
September 01, 2014

Continental flood basalt provinces are the subaerial expression of large igneous province volcanism. The emplacement of a continental flood basalt is an exceptional volcanic event in the geological history of our planet with the potential to directly impact Earth's atmosphere and environment. Large igneous province volcanism appears to have occurred episodically every 10–30 m.y. through most of Earth history. Most continental flood basalt provinces appear to have formed within 1–3 m.y., and within this period, one or more pulses of great magma production and lava eruption took place. These pulses may have lasted from 1 m.y. to as little as a few hundred thousand years. Within these pulses, tens to hundreds of volumetrically large eruptions took place, each producing 103–104 km3 of predominantly p3hoehoe lava and releasing unprecedented amounts of volcanic gases and ash into the atmosphere. The majority of magmatic gas species released had the potential to alter climate and/or atmospheric composition, in particular during violent explosive phases at the eruptive vents when volcanic gases were lofted into the stratosphere. Aside from the direct release of magmatic gases, magma-sediment interactions featured in some continental flood basalt provinces could have released additional carbon, sulfur, and halogen-bearing species into the atmosphere. Despite their potential importance, given the different nature of the country rock associated with each continental flood basalt province, it is difficult to make generalizations about these emissions from one province to another. The coincidence of continental flood basalt volcanism with periods of major biotic change is well substantiated, but the actual mechanisms by which the volcanic gases might have perturbed the environment to this extent are currently not well understood, and have been little studied by means of atmospheric modeling. We summarize current, albeit rudimentary, knowledge of continental flood basalt eruption source and emplacement characteristics to define a set of eruption source parameters in terms of magmatic gases that could be used as inputs for Earth system modeling studies. We identify our limited knowledge of the number and length of non-eruptive phases (hiatuses) during continental flood basalt volcanism as a key unknown parameter critical for better constraining the severity and duration of any potential environmental effects caused by continental flood basalt eruptions.

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GSA Special Papers

Volcanism, Impacts, and Mass Extinctions: Causes and Effects

Gerta Keller
Gerta Keller
Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
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Andrew C. Kerr
Andrew C. Kerr
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, Wales, UK
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Geological Society of America
Volume
505
ISBN print:
9780813725055
Publication date:
September 01, 2014

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