Volcanism in the Yucca Mountain region of southern Nevada in the last 5 m.y. is restricted to moderate-to-small volumes of subalkaline basaltic magmas, produced during at least 6 intervals, and spanning an age range from 4.6 Ma to about 125 ka. Where paleomagnetic evidence is available, the period of volcanism at individual eruptive centers apparently was geologically short-lived, even where multiple eruptions involved different magma types. K-Ar studies are consistent with most other geochronologic information, such as the minimum ages of exposure-dating techniques, and show no evidence of renewed volcanism after a significant quiescence at any of the centers in the Yucca Mountain region. A volcanic recurrence interval of 860 ?? 350 kyr is computed from a large K-Ar data set and an evaluation of their uncertainties. Monte Carlo error propagations demonstrate the validity of uncertainties obtained for weighted-mean ages when modified using the goodness of fit parameter, MSWD. Elevated 87Sr/86Sr initial ratios (Sri) in the basalts, nearly constant at 0.707, combined with low SiO2 and Rb/Sr ratios indicate a subcontinental, lithospheric mantle source, previously enriched in radiogenic Sr and depleted in Rb. Beginning with eruptions of the most voluminous eruptive center, the newly dated Pliocene Thirsty Mountain volcano, basaltic magmas have decreased in eruptive volume, plagioclase-phenocryst content, various trace element ratios, and TiO2, while increasing in light rare earth elements, U, Th, P2O5, and light REE/heavy REE ratios. These time-correlated changes are consistent with either increasing depths of melting or a decreasing thermal gradient in the Yucca Mountain region during the last 5 m.y.
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Age and character of basaltic rocks of the Yucca Mountain region, southern Nevada