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Geology -- Oregon, Volcanism -- research


We present data that distinguishes the long-known Littlefield Rhyolite of eastern Oregon (northwestern United States) into two distinct, voluminous, Snake River–type, high-temperature rhyolite lava packages that erupted in short sequence overk.y., with minimum volumes of 100 and 150 km3 respectively, contemporaneous with flood basalt volcanism of the Grande Ronde Basalt phase of the Columbia River Basalt Group. Contemporaneity of rhyolites with flood basalts is exceptionally demonstrated within the Malheur Gorge by intercalated mafic units belonging to the Grande Ronde Basalt that are stratigraphically constrained by underlying and overlying Littlefield Rhyolite flows, and the underlying Dinner Creek Tuff (unit 1). Our new ages of 16.11 Ma and 16.02 Ma for the lower and upper Littlefield Rhyolite, respectively, provide a narrow age constraint on the controversial lower age of Grande Ronde Basalt volcanism. Petrological data on local, intercalated Fe‑rich andesitic (icelanditic) lavas provide further evidence for coeval existence of rhyolitic and mafic magmas, and additionally provide location evidence for storage sites of Grande Ronde Basalt magmas. Based on these data in addition to similar data on the nearby Dinner Creek Tuff rhyolite center, as well as the locations of other rhyolite centers that fall within the same period of intense rhyolite volcanism of ca. 16.1 Ma, we infer that Grande Ronde Basalt crustal magma reservoirs were widespread in this area of eastern Oregon. We further infer that the main eruptions of stored flood basalt magmas followed the magmas’ lateral transport from these reservoirs to the well-known dike swarms located at the periphery of the rhyolite distribution area where local eruptions of rhyolites are notably absent. Our study highlights the interplay of mafic and crustally derived rhyolite magmas, with implications for other continental flood basalt provinces that are less well preserved than the Columbia River Basalt province.


© The Author(s) 2018. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/).

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