Petrogenesis of Pleistocene Basalts from the Western Snake River Plain, Idaho

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We present new geochemical, Sr, Nd, and Pb isotope, and 40Ar/39Ar data from Pleistocene basalts of the Western Snake River Plain (WSRP), Idaho, USA to explore their petrogenesis and to investigate the nature of the lithosphere at the western boundary of the North American craton. The basalts are divided into three groups based on their geochemical and isotopic characteristics. Prior to ∼1 Ma, volcanoes in the WSRP erupted iron-rich tholeiites (FeB1), but subsequent volcanism was dominated by concurrent eruptions of mildly alkaline, alumina-rich lavas (AlB) and iron-rich tholeiites (FeB2) with isotopic signatures similar to the AlB lavas. New 40Ar/39Ar dates of AlB and FeB2 basalts range from 0·920 ± 0·049 to 0·287 ± 0·014 Ma. MELTS models of FeB1 differentiation trends indicate that the range of compositions in this suite can be produced by 10–15 % crystallization of olivine and plagioclase at low pressure using the least evolved FeB1 composition as a parental magma; isotopic ratios can be produced via combined assimilation of a Miocene rhyolite and fractional crystallization. Additional modeling suggests that parental magmas at AlB centers were produced by 3–12 % equilibrium melting of a garnet–spinel-enriched mantle source, slightly different from that proposed for the youngest mildly alkaline lavas of the eastern and central Snake River Plain. Our new geochemical, isotopic, and geochronological data for the FeB2 basalts suggests that they are related to AlB-type magmas via a combination of fractional crystallization and assimilation of evolved mafic crust. MELTS models suggest that crystallization of an AlB parental melt at a depth of 6–8 km (2·5 kbar) could produce residual liquids having many of the major oxide characteristics of FeB2 ferrobasalts. Sr–Nd–Pb isotopic signatures of these three suites indicate a dominant contribution from an enriched plume source. FeB1 lavas are probably products of mixing between melts of an enriched plume mantle source (represented by Imnaha and Steens Basalts of the Columbia River Basalt Group) and isotopically heterogeneous sub-continental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) that has been isolated from the convecting mantle since the Archean. Isotopic ratios of FeB2 and AlB lavas capture mixing between enriched plume mantle and a more isotopically homogeneous ancient SCLM domain characteristic of the eastern and central Snake River Plain, with a coupled decrease in lithospheric contribution and degree of partial melting through time to the present. Mixtures of enriched asthenospheric reservoirs with lithospheric mantle have been proposed for neighboring volcanic fields to the east along the strike of the Yellowstone–SRP hotspot track, and to the west owing to differences in the mantle underlying the boundary of the North American craton and accreted terranes. Our petrogenetic model for the Pleistocene WSRP basalts suggests that there is also a lateral, across-strike gradient in the geometry and interaction of enriched plume mantle and ancient lithosphere. We reiterate suggestions that the WSRP is a lithosphere-scale conduit connecting initial plume-head impingement in east–central Oregon with the subsequent Yellowstone–SRP hotspot plume-tail track.