The Magmatic Architecture of Continental Flood Basalts I: Observations From the Deccan Traps

Tushar Mittal, Mark A. Richards, Isabel M. Fendley

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15 Scopus citations


Flood basalts are some of the largest magmatic events in Earth history, with intrusion and eruption of millions of km3 of basaltic magma over a short time period (∼1–5 Ma). A typical continental flood basalt (CFB) is emplaced in hundreds of individual eruptive episodes lasting decades to centuries with lava flow volumes of 103–104 km3. These large volumes have logically led to CFB models invoking large magma reservoirs ((Formula presented.) –105 km3) within the crust or at Moho depth. Since there are currently no active CFB provinces, we must rely on observations of past CFBs with varying degrees of surface exposure to develop and test models. In the last few decades, significant improvements in geochronological, geochemical, paleomagnetic, volcanological, and paleo-proxy measurements have provided high-resolution constraints on CFB eruptive tempo - the volume, duration, and frequency of individual eruptive episodes. Using the well-studied Deccan Traps as an archetype for CFB systems, we compile multiple lines of evidence–geochronology, eruption tempo, dike spatial distribution, intrusive-extrusive ratio, geochemical variations, and volcanological observations–to assess the viability of previous models. We find that the presence of just a few large crustal magma reservoirs is inconsistent with these constraints. Although observations from the Deccan Traps primarily motivate our model, we discuss constraints from other CFBs to illustrate that this conclusion may be broadly applicable for CFB magmatic systems in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JB021808
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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