Journal article Open Access

Flood Basalt Volcanism During the Past 250 Million Years

Rampino, M. R.; Stothers, R. B.

A chronology of the initiation dates of major continental flood basalt volcanism is established from published potassium-argon (K-Ar) and argon-argon (Ar-Ar) ages of basaltic rocks and related basic intrusions. The dating is therefore independent of the biostratigraphic and paleomagnetic time scales. Estimated errors of the initation dates of the volcanic episodes determined from the distributions of the radiometric ages are, approximately, plus or minus 4 percent. There were 11 distinct episodes during the past 250 million years. Sometimes appearing in pairs, the episodes have occurred quasi-periodically with a mean cycle time of 32 ± 1 (estimated, error of the mean) million years. The initiation dates of the episodes are close to the estimated dates of mass extinctions of marine organisms. Showers of impacting comets may be the cause.

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