The Midcontinent rift is an example of lithospheric extension and flood basalt volcanism induced when a new mantle plume arrived near the base of the lithosphere. Very large volumes of basaltic magma were generated and partly erupted before substantial lithospheric extension began. Volcanism continued, along with extension and deep rift subsidence, for the ensuing 15 m.y. Much of the basaltic magma, including some of the earliest flows, was formed by partial melting of isotopically primitive asthenosphere contained in the plume head. The intense but relatively short duration of rifting and magmatism is a result of the dissipation of thermal and mechanical energy in the plume head. As the plume head spread beneath the lithosphere, it stretched the overlying lithosphere radially away from the Lake Superior region, the triple junction of the rift system, and partially melted to form the great volume of basalt and related intrusive rocks of the region. The plume arrived beneath a continent that was under compression as a result of the ongoing Grenville orogeny that affected a large region east of the rift. That compression prevented full continental separation and eventually returned the region to compressional tectonics as the energy of the plume head waned. ?? 1992.
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Speculations on the origin of the North American Midcontinent rift