The timescales over which fractional crystallization and recharge work in mafic volcano-plutonic provinces is subject to great uncertainty. Currently modeled processes are subject to the scale of measurement: monogenetic basaltic fields accumulate over hundreds of thousands of years, consistent with U-Th-Ra isotopic variations that imply 50% crystallization of basic magmas on timescales of 100,000 years or more, whereas crystal diffusion modeling implies phenocryst residence times of ∼1−1000 years.

Monogenetic basalts of the Snake River Plain in southern Idaho, USA, are up to 2 km thick and postdate passage over the Yellowstone−Snake River Plain hotspot. Detailed lithologic and geophysical logging of core from deep drill holes, along with chemical stratigraphy and high-resolution paleomagnetic inclination measurements, document individual eruptive units, compound lava flows, and basaltic flow groups that accumulated over 1−6 m.y. Hiatuses are commonly marked by loess or fluvial interbeds that vary from ∼0.1 m thick to 20 m thick. Radiometric (40Ar-39Ar, detrital zircon U-Pb) and paleomagnetic timescale ages show that the deepest hole (Kimama drill hole, 1912 m total depth) accumulated over ∼6 m.y. Cycles of fractional crystallization and recharge are recognized in the chemical stratigraphy as up-section shifts in major and trace elements; these fractionation cycles commonly represent 40%−50% fractionation. Individual fractionation cycles may comprise 20−40 eruptive units (8−17 lava flows) with little to no change in paleomagnetic inclination (0°−1°), whereas adjacent cycles may differ by several degrees from one another or reflect changes in polarity.

Rates of paleosecular variation in Holocene lavas and sediments dated using 14C document significant shifts in magnetic inclination over short timescales, ranging from ∼0.05° to 2°/decade, with an average of ∼0.5°/decade and a minimum rate of 0.05°/decade. This implies that fractionation cycles with ≤1° variation in magnetic inclination formed on timescales of a few decades up to a few centuries (20−200 years). Thus, the lavas collectively represent only a few thousand years of eruptive activity, with major flow groups separated in time by tens to hundreds of thousands of years. We suggest that the rates defined by paleosecular variation capture the timescales of magmatic chamber evolution (fractionation/recharge) in the seismically imaged mid-crustal sill complex; in contrast, we suggest that crystal diffusion modeling captures the residence times in shallow subvolcanic magmatic chambers that underlie individual monogenetic volcanoes.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.