Summary
A flood basalt (or plateau basalt) is the result of a giant volcanic eruption or series of eruptions that covers large stretches of land or the ocean floor with basalt lava. Many flood basalts have been attributed to the onset of a hotspot reaching the surface of the earth via a mantle plume. Flood basalt provinces such as the Deccan Traps of India are often called traps, after the Swedish word trappa (meaning "staircase"), due to the characteristic stairstep geomorphology of many associated landscapes. Michael R. Rampino and Richard Stothers (1988) cited eleven distinct flood basalt episodes occurring in the past 250 million years, creating large igneous provinces, lava plateaus, and mountain ranges. However, more have been recognized such as the large Ontong Java Plateau, and the Chilcotin Group, though the latter may be linked to the Columbia River Basalt Group. Large igneous provinces have been connected to five mass extinction events, and may be associated with bolide impacts. Flood basalts are the most voluminous of all extrusive igneous rocks, forming enormous deposits of basaltic rock found throughout the geologic record. They are a highly distinctive form of intraplate volcanism, set apart from all other forms of volcanism by the huge volumes of lava erupted in geologically short time intervals. A single flood basalt province may contain hundreds of thousands of cubic kilometers of basalt erupted over less than a million years, with individual events each erupting hundreds of cubic kilometers of basalt. This highly fluid basalt lava can spread laterally for hundreds of kilometers from its source vents, covering areas of tens of thousands of square kilometers. Successive eruptions form thick accumulations of nearly horizontal flows, erupted in rapid succession over vast areas, flooding the Earth's surface with lava on a regional scale. These vast accumulations of flood basalt constitute large igneous provinces. These are characterized by plateau landforms, so that flood basalts are also described as plateau basalts.
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