Abstract

The Snake River Plain represents 17 m.y. of volcanic activity that took place as the North American continent migrated over a relatively fixed magma source, or hotspot. The identification of a clear seismic image of a plume beneath Yellowstone is compelling evidence that the Miocene to recent volcanism associated with the Columbia Plateau, Oregon High Lava Plains, Snake River Plain, Northern Nevada Rift and Yellowstone Plateau represents a single magmatic system related to a mantle plume. A remaining enigma is, why do radiogenic isotope signatures from basalts erupted over the Mesozoic–Paleozoic accreted terrains suggest a plume source while basalts erupted across the Proterozoic–Archean craton margin indicate an ancient subcontinental mantle lithosphere source? We show that ancient cratonic lithosphere like that of the Wyoming province superimposes its inherent isotopic composition on sublithospheric plume and/or asthenospheric melts. The results show that Yellowstone plume could have a radiogenic isotope composition similar to the mantle source of the early Columbia River Basalt Group and that the plume source composition has persisted to the present day.

You do not currently have access to this article.