The Cretaceous-Paleogene Deccan Traps

 The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) Deccan Traps of is one of the largest continental flood basalt provinces on earth. It covers an area of more than 500,000 km2 in western and central India and a large additional area offshore of western India. The estimated volume exceeds ~512,000 km3. It predominantly consists of a nearly-horizontal, sub-aerially erupted basaltic lava sequence with a maximum thickness of ~3.4 km. The lavas were emplaced by catastrophic eruptions that have been implicated as a major cause for the K/Pg mass extinctions. The Deccan province is located at the northern end of a hot spot track that originates at the Reunion Islands in Indian Ocean where a volcano is still active. Along the hot spot track, the basalts show a northward age progression with the ~66 Ma Deccan basalts being the oldest. Basalts of similar composition and age also occur on the submarine Mascarene Plateau and Seychelles Islands in Indian Ocean, indicating that these regions were adjacent to the Indian west coast at the time of the Deccan eruptions.

In the Mumbai area, the tholeiitic basalts evolved in the upper crust (<6 kbar pressure, or <23 km depth) by crystallizing olivine + plagioclase + clinopyroxene. Their primary magmas last equilibrated with mantle spinel lherzolite near the Moho (crust-mantle boundary) at ~8-13 kbar pressures (~30-49 km depths) and ~1268-1332 oC temperatures. The primary magmas are high in Mg (Mg# or 100xMg/[Mg+Fe] 70-74) and are also tholeiitic in composition. Their incompatible trace element contents indicate <15% batch melting of the mantle.

The Deccan province also contains minor volumes of alkalic rocks associated with rift zones and felsic rocks associated with basaltic dikes. The alkalic rocks were emplaced either early or late, and the felsic rocks were emplaced contemoraneously with the voluminous tholeiites. The strongly SiO2-undersaturated alkalic rocks crystallized at ~11-15 kbar/1115-1270 oC beneath the Moho, and their primary magmas originated from H2O+CO2 bearing, Ti-poor (0.7 times) to Ti-enriched (1.3 times) garnet lherzolite sources. The temperature of the alkalic melts at the base of the lithosphere was ~1285-1325 oC. The felsic rocks of the Saurashtra region (NW Deccan Traps) originated by almost complete melting of the upper continental crust with heat from the intruding basaltic magma. Zircon and monazite saturation thermometry indicates that the Saurashtra crust may have been heated to approximately 900 oC.

There is a region of anomalous mantle perturbation north of Mumbai that may have originated by the impingement of a deep mantle plume in the lower crust. Two and three-dimensional gravity modeling indicates the presence of mafic-ultramafic bodies in the upper crust. These include a large north-south elongated body south of the anomalous region along the western continental margin rift, and smaller bodies along the east-west intra-continental Narmada-Tapti Rift. Incompatible trace element variations in the basalts indicate that the parental mantle-derived melts evolved by fractional crystallization without crustal assimilation in the anomalous region, but with significant crustal assimilation away from the region. The upper crustal mafic bodies in the Narmada-Tapti Rift probably formed by emplacement of mantle-derived magma through eastward channeling along the rift.

The Early Cretaceous Rajmahal Traps

 A Large Igneous Province related to the activity of the Kerguelen Plume has been recognized in eastern India, southwestern Australia (Bunbury), the eastern Antarctic margin, the Kerguelen Plateau, the Ninetyeast Ridge, the Broken Ridge, and the Naturaliste Plateau. The oldest basalts (~132 Ma) erupted in southwestern Australia. However, there are some reports of even older Kerguelen Plume-related volcanic activity at ~145–130 Ma in the eastern Himalayas. The eastern Indian basalts and most of the basalts of the Kerguelen Plateau erupted during the peak of Kerguelen Plume activity at ~120–95 Ma. In eastern India, the Late Aptian (~118–114 Ma) Rajmahal–Bengal Basin–Sylhet Traps and the associated dolerite dikes and alkalic-carbonatitic-ultramafic intrusives comprise a large flood basalt province. The Rajmahal and Sylhet Traps are located in the western and eastern parts of the province, and drill-core data indicate that the two are continuous under the Gangetic alluvium of the Bengal Basin. The Rajmahal Traps (area: ~4300 km2) are exposed along the N-S oriented Rajmahal Hills in the northern part of the eastern margin of the Proterozoic Chotanagpur Gneissic Complex (CGC). The CGC forms the basement of the Gondwana Supergroup, the uppermost part of which contains the Rajmahal basalts. The Rajmahal flows are sub-horizontal with the dip increasing to ~5° eastward at the eastern flank of the hills, and the total thickness of the flows increases from ~230 m in surface exposure to >332 m subsurface in the Bengal Basin. The thickness of individual flows varies from <1 m to 85 m. Thin beds of shale, black shale, mudstone, siltstone, cross-bedded sandstone, and oolite associated with bentonite lenses and volcaniclastic rocks occur between lava flows in the lower one-third of the volcanic sequence, indicating sub-aqueous eruptions during the early phase of volcanism. The upper part of the sequence is devoid of sedimentary and volcaniclastic rocks, and consists of subaerially erupted lava flows. The volcanics are dominated by tholeiitic basalt and basaltic andesite with minor trachyandesite, andesite, dacite and rhyolite, and rare orthopyroxene-bearing basalt and andesite.