Toward Understanding Deccan Volcanism

Stephen Self, Tushar Mittal, Gauri Dole, Loÿc Vanderkluysen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Large igneous provinces (LIPs) represent some of the greatest volcanic events in Earth history with significant impacts on ecosystems, including mass extinctions. However, some fundamental questions related to the eruption rate, eruption style, and vent locations for LIP lava flows remain unanswered. In this review, we use the Cretaceous-Paleogene Deccan Traps as an archetype to address these questions because they are one of the best-preserved large continental flood basalt provinces. We describe the volcanological features of the Deccan flows and the potential temporal and regional variations as well as the spatial characteristics of potential feeder dikes. Along with estimates of mean long-term eruption rates for individual Deccan lavas from paleomagnetism and Hg proxy records of ∼50-250 km3/year (erupting for tens to hundreds of years), the Deccan volcanic characteristics suggest a unified conceptual model for eruption of voluminous (>1,000 km3) LIP lavas with large spatial extent (>40,000 km2). We conclude by highlighting a few key open questions and challenges that can help improve our understanding of how the Deccan flows, as well as LIP flows in general, erupted and the mechanisms by which the lavas may have flowed over distances up to 1,000 km. ▪ The Deccan Traps are an archetype for addressing fundamental volcanological questions related to eruption rate, eruption style, and vent locations for large igneous province lava flows. ▪ Deccan subprovinces likely evolved as separate volcanic systems; thus, long-distance/interprovince flow correlations must be carefully assessed. ▪ The earliest eruptions came through the Narmada-Tapi rift zone followed by the establishment of a separate magmatic plumbing system by mantle plume-associated magmas. ▪ Typical Deccan eruption rates were ∼50-250 km3/year of lava. Individual eruptions lasted for a few hundred to 1,000 years and were separated by hiatuses of 3,000-6,000 years. ▪ The conspicuous absence of dikes in the Central Deccan region strongly implies long-distance surface transport of lavas in the form of flows hundreds of kilometers long.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-506
Number of pages30
JournalAnnual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
StatePublished - May 31 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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