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Volume 31 Issue 1 (January 2021)

GSA Today

Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF

The Case for a Long-Lived and Robust Yellowstone Hotspot

Victor E. Camp

San Diego State University, Dept. of Geological Sciences, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California 92182, USA

Ray E. Wells

U.S. Geological Survey, 2130 SW 5th Street, Portland, Oregon 97201, USA


The Yellowstone hotspot is recognized as a whole-mantle plume with a history that extends to at least 56 Ma, as recorded by offshore volcanism on the Siletzia oceanic plateau. Siletzia accreted onto the North American plate at 51–49 Ma, followed by repositioning of the Farallon trench west of Siletzia from 48 to 45 Ma. North America overrode the hotspot, and it transitioned from the Farallon plate to the North American plate from 42 to 34 Ma. Since that time, it has been genetically associated with a series of aligned volcanic provinces associated with age-progressive events that include Oligocene high-K calc-alkaline volcanism in the Oregon backarc region with coeval adakite volcanism localized above the hot plume center; mid-Miocene bimodal and flood-basalt volcanism of the main-phase Columbia River Basalt Group; coeval collapse of the Nevadaplano associated with onset of Basin and Range extension and minor magmatism; and late Miocene to recent bimodal volcanism along two coeval but antithetical rhyolite migration trends—the Yellowstone–Snake River Plain hotspot track to the ENE and the Oregon High Lava Plains to the WNW.

Manuscript received 21 July 2020. Revised manuscript received 14 Sept. 2020. Manuscript accepted 17 Sept. 2020. Posted 16 Oct. 2020.

© The Geological Society of America, 2020. CC-BY-NC.


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