Publication Details

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Title: Hydrothermal alteration and melting of the crust during the Columbia River Basalt‐Snake River Plain transition and the origin of low‐δ 18O rhyolites of the central Snake River Plain
Authors: D. P. Colon, I. N. Bindeman, B. S. Ellis, A. K. Schmitt, and C. M. Fisher
Publication: Lithos, v. 224–225, p. 310‐323.
Publish Date: 2015
DOI: 10.1016/j.lithos.2015.02.022
PDF: pdf
BibTEX Citation: Colon:2015.bib


We present compelling isotopic evidence from  15 Ma rhyolites that erupted coeval with the Columbia River Basalts in southwest Idaho’s J‐P Desert and the Jarbidge Mountains of northern Nevada at that suggests that the Yellowstone mantle plume caused hydrothermal alteration and remelting of diverse compositions of shallow crust in the area where they erupted. These rhyolites also constitute the earliest known Miocene volcanism in the vicinity of the Bruneau‐Jarbidge and Twin Falls (BJTF) volcanic complexes, a major center of voluminous (103−104 km3) low −δO rhyolitic volcanism that was previously defined as being active from 13 to 6Ma. The Jarbidge Rhyolite has above‐mantle \deltaO (δO of+7.9‰ SMOW) and extremely unradiogenic ε Hf (−34.7) and ε Nd (‐24.0). By contrast, the J‐P Desert units are lower in δO (+4.5 to 5.8‰ ), and have more moderately unradiogenic whole−rock ε Hf (‐20.3 to ‐8.9) and ε Nd (‐13.4 to ‐7.7). The J‐P Desert rhyolites are geochemically and petrologically similar to the younger rhyolites of the BJTF center (the one exception being their high δO values), suggesting a common origin for J‐P Desert and BJTF rhyolites. The presence of low ‐\deltaO values and unradiogenic Nd and Hf isotopic compositions, both of which differ greatly from the composition of a mantle differentiate, indicate that some of these melts may be 50% or more melted crust by volume. Individual J‐P Desert units have isotopically diverse zircons, with one lava containing zircons ranging from ‐0.6‰ to +6.5‰ in δO and from ‐29.5 to ‐2.8 in ε Hf. Despite this diversity, zircons all have Miocene U/Pb ages. The range of zircon compositions fingerprints the diversity of their source melts, which in turn allow us to determine the compositions of two crustal end‐members which melted to form these rhyolites. These end‐members are: 1) Archean basement with normal to high‐δO and unradiogenic ε Hf and 2) hydrothermally altered, shallow, young crust with low−δO (0−1‰ ) and more radiogenic ε Hf. We suggest that the shallow crust’s low−δO composition is the result of hydrothermal alteration which was driven by a combination of normal faulting and high heat fluxes from intruding Yellowstone plume‐derived basalts shortly prior to the onset of silicic magmatism. Furthermore, zircon diversity in the J‐P Desert units suggests rapid assembly of zircon‐bearing melts of varying isotopic composition prior to eruption, creating well‐mixed magmas with heterogeneous zircons.We suggest that this hydrothermal priming of the crust followed by remelting upon further heating may be a common feature of intraplate mantle plume volcanism worldwide.