The largest volcanic eruptions on Earth

Bryan, Scott E., Peate, Ingrid U., Peate, David W., Self, Stephen, Jerram, Dougal A., Mawby, Michael R., Marsh, J.S. (Goonie), & Miller, Jodie A. (2010) The largest volcanic eruptions on Earth. Earth-Science Reviews, 102(3-4), pp. 207-229.

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Large igneous provinces (LIPs) are sites of the most frequently recurring, largest volume basaltic and silicic eruptions in Earth history. These large-volume (N1000 km3 dense rock equivalent) and large-magnitude (NM8) eruptions produce areally extensive (104–105 km2) basaltic lava flow fields and silicic ignimbrites that are the main building blocks of LIPs. Available information on the largest eruptive units are primarily from the Columbia River and Deccan provinces for the dimensions of flood basalt eruptions, and the Paraná–Etendeka and Afro-Arabian provinces for the silicic ignimbrite eruptions. In addition, three large-volume (675– 2000 km3) silicic lava flows have also been mapped out in the Proterozoic Gawler Range province (Australia), an interpreted LIP remnant. Magma volumes of N1000 km3 have also been emplaced as high-level basaltic and rhyolitic sills in LIPs. The data sets indicate comparable eruption magnitudes between the basaltic and silicic eruptions, but due to considerable volumes residing as co-ignimbrite ash deposits, the current volume constraints for the silicic ignimbrite eruptions may be considerably underestimated. Magma composition thus appears to be no barrier to the volume of magma emitted during an individual eruption. Despite this general similarity in magnitude, flood basaltic and silicic eruptions are very different in terms of eruption style, duration, intensity, vent configuration, and emplacement style. Flood basaltic eruptions are dominantly effusive and Hawaiian–Strombolian in style, with magma discharge rates of ~106–108 kg s−1 and eruption durations estimated at years to tens of years that emplace dominantly compound pahoehoe lava flow fields. Effusive and fissural eruptions have also emplaced some large-volume silicic lavas, but discharge rates are unknown, and may be up to an order of magnitude greater than those of flood basalt lava eruptions for emplacement to be on realistic time scales (b10 years). Most silicic eruptions, however, are moderately to highly explosive, producing co-current pyroclastic fountains (rarely Plinian) with discharge rates of 109– 1011 kg s−1 that emplace welded to rheomorphic ignimbrites. At present, durations for the large-magnitude silicic eruptions are unconstrained; at discharge rates of 109 kg s−1, equivalent to the peak of the 1991 Mt Pinatubo eruption, the largest silicic eruptions would take many months to evacuate N5000 km3 of magma. The generally simple deposit structure is more suggestive of short-duration (hours to days) and high intensity (~1011 kg s−1) eruptions, perhaps with hiatuses in some cases. These extreme discharge rates would be facilitated by multiple point, fissure and/or ring fracture venting of magma. Eruption frequencies are much elevated for large-magnitude eruptions of both magma types during LIP-forming episodes. However, in basaltdominated provinces (continental and ocean basin flood basalt provinces, oceanic plateaus, volcanic rifted margins), large magnitude (NM8) basaltic eruptions have much shorter recurrence intervals of 103–104 years, whereas similar magnitude silicic eruptions may have recurrence intervals of up to 105 years. The Paraná– Etendeka province was the site of at least nine NM8 silicic eruptions over an ~1 Myr period at ~132 Ma; a similar eruption frequency, although with a fewer number of silicic eruptions is also observed for the Afro- Arabian Province. The huge volumes of basaltic and silicic magma erupted in quick succession during LIP events raises several unresolved issues in terms of locus of magma generation and storage (if any) in the crust prior to eruption, and paths and rates of ascent from magma reservoirs to the surface.

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ID Code: 40259
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: super-eruption, Large Igneous Provinces, flood basalt, rhyolite, ignimbrite
DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.07.001
ISSN: 00128252
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000) > GEOLOGY (040300) > Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (040304)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000) > GEOLOGY (040300) > Volcanology (040314)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 Elsevier
Deposited On: 22 Feb 2011 23:16
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:17

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