Doctor of Philosophy
diffusion modeling, Flood Basalts, isotope zoning, plagioclase zoning, Deccan Traps
Date of Defense
The Deccan Trap basalts are the remnants of a massive series of lava flows that erupted at the K/T boundary and covered 1-2 million km2 of west-central India. This eruptive event is of global interest because of its possible link to the major mass extinction event, and there is much debate about the duration of this massive volcanic event. In contrast to isotopic or paleomagnetic dating methods, I explore an alternative approach to determine the lifecycle of the magma chambers that supplied the lavas, and extend the concept to obtain a tighter constraint on Deccan’s duration. My method relies on extracting time information from elemental and isotopic diffusion across zone boundary in an individual crystal.
I determined elemental and Sr-isotopic variations across abnormally large (2-5 cm) plagioclase crystals from the Thalghat and Kashele “Giant Plagioclase Basalts” from the lowermost Jawhar and Igatpuri Formations respectively in the thickest Western Ghats section near Mumbai. I also obtained bulk rock major, trace and rare earth element chemistry of each lava flow from the two formations. Thalghat flows contain only 12% zoned crystals, with 87Sr/86Sr ratios of 0.7096 in the core and 0.7106 in the rim, separated by a sharp boundary. In contrast, all Kashele crystals have a wider range of 87Sr/86Sr values, with multiple zones. Geochemical modeling of the data suggests that the two types of crystals grew in distinct magmatic environments. Modeling intracrystalline diffusive equilibration between the core and rim of Thalghat crystals led me to obtain a crystal growth rate of 2.03x10-10 cm/s and a residence time of 780 years for the crystals in the magma chamber(s). Employing some assumptions based on field and geochronologic evidence, I extrapolated this residence time to the entire Western Ghats and obtained an estimate of 25,000 – 35,000 years for the duration of Western Ghats volcanism. This gave an eruptive rate of 30 – 40 km3/yr, which is much higher than any presently erupting volcano. This result will remain speculative until a similarly detailed analytical-modeling study is performed for the rest of the Western Ghats formations.
Borges, Melroy R., "Life Cycle of Deccan Trap Magma Chambers: A Crystal Scale Elemental and Strontium Isotopic Investigation" (2007). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 10.