Ultramafic inclusions and host alkali olivine basalts of the southern coastal plain of the Red Sea, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Open-File Report 79-1509

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A variety of mafic and ultramafic inclusions occur within the pyroclastic components of the Al Birk basalt, erupted on the southern Red Sea coastal plain of Saudi Arabia from Pleistocene time to the present. Depleted harzburgites are the only inclusions contained within the basalts that were erupted through Miocene oceanic crust (15 km thick) in the vicinity of Jizan, whereas to the north in the vicinity of Al Birk, alkali basalts that were erupted through a thicker Precambrian crust (48 km thick) contain mixtures of harzburgites, cumulate gabbro, and websterite inclusions accompanied by large (> 2 cm) megacrysts of glassy alumina-rich clinopyroxene, plagioclase, and spinel. Microprobe analyses of individual minerals from the harzburgites, websterites, and cumulate gabbros reveal variations in composition that can be related to a complex mantle history during the evolution of the alkali basalts. Clinopyroxene and plagioclase megacrysts may represent early phases that crystallized from the alkali olivine basalt magma at depths less than 35 km. Layered websterites and gabbros with cumulate plagioclase and clinopyroxene may represent continuing crystallization of the alkali olivine basalt magma in the lower crust when basaltic magma was not rapidly ascending. It is significant that the megacrysts and cumulate inclusions apparently form only where the magmas have traversed the Precambrian crust, whereas the harzburgite-bearing basalts that penetrated a much thinner Miocene oceanic crust reveal no evidence of mantle fractionation. These alkali olivine basalts and their contained inclusions are related in time to present-day rifting in the Red Sea axial trough. The onshore, deep-seated, undersaturated magmas are separated from the shallow Red Sea rift subalkaline basalts by only 170 km. The contemporaneity of alkaline olivine and subalkaline basalts requires that they must relate directly to the separation of the Arabian plate from the African plate.

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Ultramafic inclusions and host alkali olivine basalts of the southern coastal plain of the Red Sea, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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U.S. Geological Survey,
iii, 41 p. :ill., map ;28 cm.