UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Quaternary volcanism in the Wells Gray-Clearwater area, east central British Columbia Hickson, Catherine Jean


Basaltic volcanism in the form of small-volume, subaerial and subaqueous eruptions have occurred in the Wells Cray—Clearwater area of east central British Columbia. These eruptions have been dated by the K-Ar method and by relationships to dated glaciations. The oldest known eruption may be as old as 3.2 Ma, but is more likely 2 Ma or less. The youngest eruptions are less than 7560 ± 110 radiocarbon years. The most extensive basalts are valley-filling and plateau-capping flows of the Clearwater unit, which are Pleistocene in age and greater than 25 km³ in volume. The deposition of flows of the Clearwater unit has overlapped at least three periods of glaciation. The interaction of glacial ice and basaltic magma has been recorded in the form of tuyas, ice ponded valley deposits and subglacial mounds (SUGM). In a few place glacial till has been preserved beneath basalt flows. Flows of Wells Gray—Clearwater suite appear to have erupted from vents that are both spatially and temporally separated. The individual eruptions were of low volume (<1km³) and chemically distinct from one another. Major element composition is variable but the lavas are predominantly alkalic. Olivine is the predominant phenocryst phase. Plagioclase and augitic clinopyroxene rarely occur as phenocrysts, but both minerals are ubiquitous in the groundmass. Orthopyroxene was not seen in any of the samples. Flows appear to have erupted with minimal crystal fractionation or crustal contamination. The range of compositions seen in the suite is best explained by a process of partial melting and the progressive depletion of the mantle source by earlier melts. Progressive depletion of the mantle source was coupled with enrichment of parts of the mantle in K as well as some lithophile and siderophile elements. Increasing alkali content may have triggered the highly enriched eruptions of Holocene age that, despite very low degrees of partial melting, were capable of reaching the surface. Overprinting the effects of partial melting are inherited heterogeneities in the source zone of the magmas. Based on whole-rock chemistry the magma source appears to be a highly depleted region similar to that which produces the most depleted mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB). The zone is, however, capable of producing large volume (≃ 15%) partial melts and has not been isotopically depleted to the same extent as MORB source regions. Isotope analyses of ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr, ¹⁴³Nd/¹⁴⁴Nd and whole-rock Pb indicate that the magmas may be derived from a remnant of subducted oceanic lithosphere which has been variously depleted by the prior generation of basaltic melts. Isotopic enrichment above the level seen in MORB's is due in part to crustal contamination. The isotopic results are very different than those obtained from samples erupted through thin, allochthonous crust in the Intermontane Belt and may be explained in part by generation of the magmas in oceanic material which was subducted when allochthonous crust lay against the parautochthonous rocks underlying the Wells Cray—Clearwater area. The alkali olivine basalts of the Wells Cray—Clearwater area have erupted onto a tectonically active surface. A peneplain (erosion surface), formed in Eocene-Miocene time has been uplifted since the Miocene and uplift may be continuing. This uplift is in response to an elevated geothermal gradient which may be due to crustal extension. This crustal extension may be similar to that which occurred in the Eocene. The elevated geothermal gradient and reduced pressures attendant with recent uplift and erosion may have initiated basaltic volcanism in the region, rather than a fixed mantle hot spot as proposed in earlier work.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.