Bayesian markov-chain monte carlo inversion of low-temperature thermochronology around two 8 − 10 m wide columbia river flood basalt dikes

Leif Karlstrom, Kendra E. Murray, Peter W. Reiners

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Flood basalt volcanism involves large volumes of magma emplaced into the crust and surface environment on geologically short timescales. The mechanics of flood basalt emplacement, including dynamics of the crustal magma transport system and the tempo of individual eruptions, are not well-constrained. Here we study two exhumed dikes from the Columbia River Flood Basalt province in northeast Oregon, USA, using apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronology to constrain dike emplacement histories. Sample transects perpendicular to the dike margins document transient heating of granitic host rocks. We model heating as due to dike emplacement, considering a thermal model with distinct melt-fraction temperature relationships for basaltic magma and granitic wallrock, and a parameterization of unsteady flow within the dike. We model partial resetting of thermochronometers by considering He diffusion in spherical grains as a response to dike heating. A Bayesian Markov-Chain Monte Carlo framework is used to jointly invert for six parameters related to dike emplacement and grain-scale He diffusion. We find that the two dikes, despite similar dimensions on an outcrop scale, exhibit different spatial patterns of thermochronometer partial resetting away from the dike. These patterns predict distinct emplacement histories. We extend previous modeling of a presumed feeder dike at Maxwell Lake in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon, finding posterior probability distribution functions (PDFs) that predict steady heating from sustained magma flow over 1–6 years and elevated farfield host rock temperatures. This suggests regional-scale heating in the vicinity of Maxwell Lake, which might arise from nearby intrusions. The other dike, within the Cornucopia subswarm, is predicted to have a 1–4 year thermally active lifespan with an unsteady heating rate suggestive of low magma flow rate compared to Maxwell Lake, in a cool near-surface thermal environment. In both cases, misfit of near-dike partial resetting of thermochronometers by models suggests either heat transfer via fluid advection in host rocks or pulsed magma flow in the dikes. Our results highlight the diversity of dike emplacement histories within the Columbia River Flood Basalt province and the power of Bayesian inversion methods for quantifying parameter trade-offs and uncertainty in thermal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number90
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
StatePublished - Apr 18 2019


  • Bayesian inversion
  • Columbia river flood basalts
  • Dike mechanics
  • Large igneous provinces
  • Low temperature thermochronology
  • Thermal modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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