Abstract

Volcanism in the Midcontinent rift system lasted between 1108 and 1086 Ma. Rates of flood-basalt eruption and subsidence in the western Lake Superior region appear to have been greatest at the beginning of recorded activity (estimated 5 km/Ma subsidence rate at 1108 Ma) and rapidly waned over a period of 1–3 Ma during a magnetically reversed period. The age of the paleomagnetic polarity reversal is now constrained to be between 1105 ± 2 and 1102 ± 2 Ma. A resurgence of intense volcanism began at 1100 ± 2 Ma in the North Shore Volcanic Group and lasted until 1097 ± 2 Ma. This group contains a ca. 7 Ma time gap between magnetically reversed and normal volcanic sequences. A similar disconformity appears to exist in the upper part of the Powder Mill Group. The average subsidence rate during this period was approximately 3.7 km/Ma. Latitude variations measured from paleomagnetism on dated sequences indicate that the North American plate was drifting at a minimum rate of 22 cm/year during the early history of the Midcontinent rift. An abrupt slowdown to approximately 8 cm/year occurred at ca. 1095 Ma. These data support a mantle-plume origin for Midcontinent rift volcanism, with the plume head attached to and drifting with the continental lithosphere. Resurgence of flood-basalt magmatism at 1100 Ma may have been caused by extension of the superheated lithosphere following continental collision within the Grenville Orogen to the east.

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