Geochemical variability among Columbia River Basalt Group flood lavas has been attributed to two different origins: derivation from heterogeneous mantle and modification of mantle-derived magmas by open-system processes involving continental crust. We present in situ analyses of Sr isotopes from core-to-rim transects of plagioclase phenocrysts and groundmass from each major Columbia River Basalt Group formation and show that plagioclase crystals are usually internally zoned in 87Sr/86Sr and are in 87Sr/86Sr disequilibrium with their host groundmass. These data unequivocally demonstrate that Columbia River basalt magmas, regardless of the nature of mantle sources, were modified by open-system processes operating at crustal depths. One-dimensional diffusion modeling indicates that observed isotopic heterogeneities cannot have existed at magmatic temperatures for more than a few years or decades. In general, results indicate that these flood basalt magmas were erupted while still in the process of assembly. A typical Columbia River flood basalt magma (melt plus phenocrysts) therefore only attains its final geochemical identity just before or during eruption, a fact that is generally obscured when evaluating conventional whole-rock isotope analyses.

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