From initiation to termination: a petrostratigraphic tour of the Ethiopian Low-Ti Flood Basalt Province

  • S. R. KransEmail author
  • T. O. Rooney
  • J. Kappelman
  • G. Yirgu
  • D. Ayalew
Original Paper


Continental flood basalts (CFBs), thought to preserve the magmatic record of an impinging mantle plume head, offer spatial and temporal insights into melt generation processes in large igneous provinces (LIPs). Despite the utility of CFBs in probing mantle plume composition, these basalts typically erupt fractionated compositions, suggestive of significant residence time in the continental lithosphere. The location and duration of residence within the lithosphere provide additional insights into the flux of plume-related magmas. The NW Ethiopian plateau offers a well-preserved stratigraphic sequence from flood basalt initiation to termination, and is thus an important target for study of CFBs. This study examines modal observations within a stratigraphic framework and places these observations within the context of the magmatic evolution of the Ethiopian CFB province. Data demonstrate multiple pulses of magma recharge punctuated by brief shut-down events, with initial flows fed by magmas that experienced deeper fractionation (lower crust). Broad changes in modal mineralogy and flow cyclicity are consistent with fluctuating changes in magmatic flux through a complex plumbing system, indicating pulsed magma flux and an overall shallowing of the magmatic plumbing system over time. The composition of plagioclase megacrysts suggests a constant replenishing of new primitive magma recharging the shallow plumbing system during the main phase of volcanism, reaching an apex prior to flood basalt termination. The petrostratigraphic data sets presented in this paper provide new insight into the evolution of a magma plumbing system in a CFB province.


Flood basalt Ethiopia Stratigraphy Petrography Cumulophyric Megacrystic plagioclase Magma plumbing system 



Thoughtful comments by Nicholas Arndt and an anonymous reviewer helped imrpove this manuscript. We thank Mark Ghiorso for careful editorial handling and helpful suggestions. We thank Gabre Meskel and other members of the field team for assisting us. We also thank the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines.


This work was supported by the United States National Science Foundation [EAR-1219647, EAR-1219459, BCS-0921009].

Supplementary material

410_2018_1460_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Table S1. Sample locations, flow elevations and thickness, and general outcrop notes. Location information is reported using WGS84 in decimal degrees latitude and longitude (DD Lat and DD Long, respectively). Elevations are reported in meters above sea level. Minimum and maximum elevation reported when contacts between flows were observed in the field (unless specified otherwise). Flow thickness determined from minimum and maximum thickness. a Denotes minimum thickness of flow based on height of exposed outcrop where contacts were not observed (XLSX 24 KB)
410_2018_1460_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 2 Table S2. Petrographic information for individual samples. Textures and mode (modal mineralogy) are as described in results sections 4.1.1 and 4.1.2, respectively. The total volume % phenocrysts are approximations from visual inspection of thin sections and hand sample. The %An for plagioclase was determined petrographically by Michel Lévy method. NS= no sample collected (XLSX 20 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. R. Krans
    • 1
    Email author
  • T. O. Rooney
    • 1
  • J. Kappelman
    • 2
  • G. Yirgu
    • 3
  • D. Ayalew
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

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