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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Flood basalts
  • Volcanism



Large igneous provinces: A planetary perspective

J. W. Head III and M. F. Coffin

Large igneous provinces (LIPs) are common on the Moon, Mars and Venus, and their presence, characteristics, and geologic and temporal settings offer a potentially important perspective for interpreting LIPs on Earth. On the Moon, shallow magma reservoirs and large shield volcanoes are unknown. The relatively low-density, thick anorthositic crust creates a density trap for rising basaltic magmas which are thought to collect in reservoirs at the base of the crust; reservoir overpressurization causes dikes to propagate to the surface. Dikes sufficiently large to reach the surface are likely to result in large-volume, high-effusion-rate eruptions; single eruptive phases are predicted theoretically and observed in the maria to be several hundred to over 103 km3. On Mars, massive shield volcanoes have formed on the stable lithosphere over hot spots lasting over a billion years; shield heights are up to 25 km above the adjacent plains. Volumes of single edifices are of the order of 1.5×106 km3, comparable to the total volumes of many basalt provinces on Earth. The impact cratering record on Venus suggests that Venus underwent rapid and massive planet-wide volcanic resurfacing about 300 m.y. ago, an event possibly related to the overturn of a depleted mantle layer resulting from the vertical accretion of a basaltic crust. This hypothesized event could be the equivalent of a planet-wide LIP and underlines the possibility of episodic and catastrophic LIPs throughout planetary history, resembling mantle overturn events proposed for Earth. The planetary record, in concert with the detailed examination of examples on Earth, can be of use in developing and testing models for the emplacement of LIPs, and may help to distinguish plate tectonic influences from those linked to deeper interior (mantle and core) processes.

Citation: Head, J. W., III, and M. F. Coffin (1997), Large igneous provinces: A planetary perspective, in Large Igneous Provinces: Continental, Oceanic, and Planetary Flood Volcanism, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 100, edited by J. Mahoney and F. Coffin, pp. 411–438, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/GM100p0411.

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