Geological Society of America
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The Snake River Plain of central Idaho represents the world’s best example of a mantle hotspot track impinging upon continental crust and provides a record of bimodal volcanism extending over 12 Ma to the present. Project Hotspot recovered almost 2 km of continuous drill core from the Kimama borehole, located in central Idaho on the axial volcanic zone. The Kimama drill core represents the most complete record of mafic volcanism along the Yellowstone–Snake River Plain hotspot track.
A total of 432 basalt flow units, representing 183 basalt flows, 78 basalt flow groups, and 34 super groups, along with 42 sediment interbeds are recognized using volcanic facies observations, stratigraphic relationships, borehole geophysical logs, and paleosecular variation in magnetostratigraphy. Rhyolite and other non-basaltic volcanic materials were not encountered in the drill core.
Ages for six basalt lava flows were determined by 40Ar/39Ar using incremental heating experiments. Paleomagnetic inclination was measured on over 1200 samples collected at roughly 2-m-depth intervals, yielding mean values of paleosecular variation between ±50° to ±70° in Kimama flow groups, close to the expected 61° axial dipole average for the Kimama borehole location. Twenty-three magnetic reversals were identified and correlated to dated geomagnetic chrons and subchrons and compared with the 40Ar/39Ar radiometric ages. A linear fit to 40Ar/39Ar dates, geomagnetic chron and subchron boundaries, and volcanogenic zircon U-Pb ages defines a mean accumulation rate of ∼320 m/m.y. and extrapolates to a bottom hole age of 6.3 Ma.
Average thicknesses of lithologic units increase from 2.7 m (sediment), 4 m (flow units), 10 m (flows), 23 m (flow groups), to 53 m (super groups). On average, one lava flow inundated the Kimama borehole location every 33 k.y. Intercalated sediments, ranging from 0.06 to 24.5 m thick, make up roughly 6% of the drill core and indicate lulls in local volcanic activity that may have lasted up to 77 k.y. Neutron and gamma-ray logs supplement observations from the drill cores: neutron logs document individual flow units through the contrast between massive flow interiors and more porous flow surfaces, and gamma-ray logs document the depth and thickness of sedimentary interbeds and high–K-Fe basalts. The 5.8 m.y. duration of basaltic volcanism in the Kimama drill core implies a steady rate of volcanism, indicating a relatively stable rate of mantle upflow along the lithosphere-mantle boundary in the wake of Yellowstone–Snake River Plain plume volcanism.
Katherine E. Potter, Duane E. Champion, Robert A. Duncan, John W. Shervais; Volcanic stratigraphy and age model of the Kimama deep borehole (Project Hotspot): Evidence for 5.8 million years of continuous basalt volcanism, central Snake River Plain, Idaho. Geosphere; 15 (3): 736–758. doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES01679.1