Geology and geochronology of the Tana Basin, Ethiopia: LIP volcanism, super eruptions and Eocene–Oligocene environmental change

Authors Organisations
  • A. R. Prave(Author)
    University of St Andrews
  • C. R. Bates(Author)
    University of St Andrews
  • C. H. Donaldson(Author)
    University of St Andrews
  • Harry Toland(Author)
  • D. J. Condon(Author)
    NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory
  • D. Mark(Author)
    Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
  • T. D. Raub(Author)
    University of St Andrews
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date19 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2016
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New geological and geochronological data define four episodes of volcanism for the Lake Tana region in the northern Ethiopian portion of the Afro–Arabian Large Igneous Province (LIP): pre-31 Ma flood basalt that yielded a single 40Ar/39Ar age of 34.05±0.54/0.56 Ma; thick and extensive felsic ignimbrites and rhyolites (minimum volume of 2–3×103 km3) erupted between 31.108±0.020/0.041 Ma and 30.844±0.027/0.046 Ma (U–Pb CA-ID-TIMS zircon ages); mafic volcanism bracketed by 40Ar/39Ar ages of 28.90±0.12/0.14 Ma and 23.75±0.02/0.04 Ma; and localised scoraceous basalt with an 40Ar/39Ar age of 0.033±0.005/0.005 Ma. The felsic volcanism was the product of super eruptions that created a 60–80 km diameter caldera marked by km-scale caldera-collapse fault blocks and a steep-sided basin filled with a minimum of 180 m of sediment and the present-day Lake Tana. These new data enable mapping, with a finer resolution than previously possible, Afro–Arabian LIP volcanism onto the timeline of the Eocene–Oligocene transition and show that neither the mafic nor silicic volcanism coincides directly with perturbations in the geochemical records that span that transition. Our results reinforce the view that it is not the development of a LIP alone but its rate of effusion that contributes to inducing global-scale environmental change


  • Eocene-Oligocene transition, Flood basalt, LIP, Lake Tana, Super eruption