Field, petrographic, chemical, and geochronologic information has led to the identification and characterization of a widespread low-K, high-alumina olivine tholeiite (HAOT) magma type in the northwestern Great Basin. This basalt covers at least 22,000 km2 and is estimated to represent a total volume of at least 650 km3.
The time period over which HAOT lavas were erupted extends from late Miocene to Holocene (10.5–0 m.y. B.P.). This interval overlaps with the timing of Snake River, Cascade, and northwestern Basin and Range volcanism but distinguishes HAOT from the main pulse of Columbia River volcanism (∼15 m.y. B.P.). Furthermore, three major pulses of HAOT magmatism are suggested from the geochronology of this study: 0 to 2.5 m.y. B.P., 3.5 to 6 m.y. B.P., and 7 to 10 m.y. B.P.
The distinctive holocrystalline, nonporphyritic, and diktytaxitic texture, the low incompatible-element concentrations, and the high MgO/FeO* of HAOT serve to distinguish this basalt from other basalts of the northwestern United States. The low incompatible-element signature accentuates the similarities between HAOT, mid-ocean–ridge basalts, and back-arc–basin basalts. These similarities, combined with the HAOT chronology, support the idea that the processes giving rise to extensional tectonism and HAOT magmatism in the northwestern Great Basin are similar to those acting in active back-arc–spreading regions.