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Basalt Floods Millions of years ago lava flows poured molten rock over huge areas of the world These eruptions known as basalt floods hurled noxious gases fro Earths interior into the atmosphere Toxic clouds ravaged the environment and may have triggered mass extinction The weathered remains of flood basalt can still be seen around the world but scientists do not yet understand the cause of such vast eruptions It is such a mystery that a basalt flood could burst from the Earth tomorrow undetected Basalt floods smother whole regions of the Earth in molten rock They are released when immense volumes of magma apply pressure to the Earths rigid crust until it cracks around huge violent fountains of lava It can take over a million years to exhaust the magma supply completely and end the flood The last major flood eruption covered Washington and Oregon 16 million years ago and spread over 77000 square miles It solidified as the Columbia River Plateau and even after 16 million years of erosion the flood basalt still cover an area larger than the state of New York The Deccan Plateau in India which erupted around 65 million years ago is twice that size One possible cause of flood basalt is magma plumes Magma forges a path from chamber deep within the Earths hot mantle and forces it way through the crust n fissure that are sometimes over 50 miles long There are no big bangs- gases simply bubble through the highly fluid lava without blowing it apart Each fissure disgorges sheet of molten rock above ground that may smother up to 14000 square miles of the surface Successive eruptions expel layer upon layer of basalt - in some places the plateaus lie three miles thick Flows of hot rock annihilate all life in their path Farther afield the biosphere reels under clouds of toxic gas that escape the vast volumes of magma Eruptions from the Icelandic volcano Laki
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