Dr. Barry Hanan has published a new paper were the authors model Yellowstone hotspot–continental lithosphere interaction.  They compare Pb, Sr, and Nd isotope results for 25 basalts the Western and Central Snake River Plain, Idaho, USA. Principal Component Analysis shows 3 end-members account for >97% of the isotope variability and source modeling reveals the hotspot interacted with lithosphere of varying age and thickness.

Yellowstone hotspot–continental lithosphere interaction

Marlon M. Jeana, 1, Barry B. Hananb, John W. Shervaisa

a Department of Geology, Utah State University, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-4500, USA
b Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-1020, USA


The Snake River Plain represents 17 m.y. of volcanic activity that took place as the North American continent migrated over a relatively fixed magma source, or hotspot. We present new Pb, Sr, and Nd data for a suite of 25 basalts collected from Western and Central Snake River Plain (SRP). The new isotope data, combined with previously published data from the SRP, provide a traverse of the Wyoming craton margin, from the 87Sr/86Sr = 0.706 line boundary of western SRP with Phanerozoic accreted terranes, east through the central and eastern SRP, to the Yellowstone Plateau. Low-K basalts from the western SRP, overlain by high-K basalts, provide a temporal record of regional source variation from ∼16.8 to 0.2 Ma. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of the new and previously published SRP basalt Pb isotopes reveals that >97% of the total variability is accounted for by mixing between three end-members and is consistent with a sublithospheric Yellowstone hotspot mantle source with a radiogenic isotope composition similar to the mantle source of the early Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) and two continental lithosphere end-members, heterogeneous in age and composition. We use the SRP Pb, Sr, and Nd isotope data to model the Yellowstone Hotspot–continental lithosphere interaction by three component mixing between two continental lithospheric components, Archean lithosphere (CL1) that represents older lithosphere underlying the Yellowstone Plateau in the east, and Paleoproterozoic lithosphere (CL2) representing the younger lithosphere underlying the SRP in the west near the craton margin, and a sublithospheric end-member, representing the Yellowstone hotspot (PL). The results suggest a continuous flow of PL material westward as the NA continental lithosphere migrated over the upwelling hotspot along a shoaling gradient in the sub-continental mantle lithosphere. The model shows a decrease in Total Lithosphere end-members (CL1 + CL2) and the Lithosphere Ratio (CL1/CL2), from the craton interior at Yellowstone toward its western margin, consistent with geologic and geophysical evidence that the continental lithosphere beneath the SRP decreases in age and thickness from east to west. The Lithosphere Ratio shows step-like decreases from Yellowstone in the east to the 87Sr/86Sr = 0.706 line in the west, indicating that the SRP cuts across geochemically distinct parcels of lithospheric mantle, consistent with terrane accretion models for the craton margin. In the western SRP, young high-K basalts have a lower mass fraction of Total Lithospheric compared to the underlying low-K tholeiites, but the same Lithosphere Ratio, consistent with a recent (700–900 ka) decrease in lithosphere contribution between eruption of early low- and younger high-K basalts.

BSSAMarlon M. Jean, Barry B. Hanan, John W. Shervais, Yellowstone hotspot–continental lithosphere interaction, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 389, 1 March 2014, Pages 119–131http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2013.12.012