The region of the present Rio Grande rift and southeastern Colorado Plateau underwent lithospheric extension during middle to late Cenozoic deformation affecting the entire southwestern U.S. Lithospheric mantle was disrupted, and in many regions displaced or replaced by asthenospheric mantle at depths from which basaltic magmas were derived and erupted to the surface. Study of the igneous rocks erupted or intruded during this deformation yields insights into processes of magmatism associated with extension of continental lithosphere. Magmatic rocks associated with an early (late Oligocene-early Miocene) ductile phase of extension are dominantly basaltic andesites and related, calc-alkaline intermediate to silicic derivative rocks. Mafic magmas were probably derived from isotopically "enriched" lithospheric mantle. Igneous rocks associated with a later (middle Miocene-Holocene), more brittle phase of extension include widespread basaltic rocks and localized central volcanoes of intermediate to silicic composition. Isotopic compositions of mafic rocks, which include both tholeiitic and alkalic basalts, correlate strongly with tectonic setting and lithospheric structure. Basalts erupted in areas of greatest crustal extension, such as the central and southern rift and Basin and Range province, were derived from isotopically "depleted" (correlated with "asthenospheric") mantle. Also, isotopic compositions of Pliocene to Holocene basalts are slightly more depleted than those of Miocene basalts, suggesting that subcrustal lithospheric mantle was thinned during late Miocene extension. Intermediate rocks of the central volcanoes formed by a complex combination of processes, probably dominated by fractional crystallization and by assimilation of upper and lower crust in isolated, small magma chambers. The petrologic, geochemical, and isotopic data are compatible with a model, derived first from geophysical data, whereby lithosphere is thinned beneath the central rift and southeastern Colorado Plateau, with greatest thinning centered beneath the axis of the rift. A lithospheric model involving uniform-sense simple shear does not appear compatible with the data as presently understood. ?? 1991.
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Middle to late cenozoic magmatism of the southeastern Colorado plateau and central Rio Grande rift (New Mexico and Arizona, U.S.A.) : a model for continental rifting