VHP Photo Glossary: Basalt
Basalt lava (glowing rock) oozes over
basalt lava flow
Basalt is a hard, black volcanic rock with less than about 52 weight percent
). Because of basalt's low silica
content, it has a low viscosity (resistance to flow). Therefore,
basaltic lava can flow quickly and easily move >20 km from a vent.
The low viscosity typically allows volcanic gases to escape without
generating enormous eruption columns. Basaltic lava fountains and fissure
eruptions, however, still form explosive fountains hundreds of meters tall.
Common minerals in basalt include olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase.
Basalt is erupted at temperatures between 1100 to 1250° C.
More about volcanic and plutonic rocks.
Did you know?
Basalt is the most common rock type in the Earth's crust (the outer 10
to 50 km). In fact, most of the ocean floor is made of basalt.
Huge outpourings of lava called "flood basalts" are found on
many continents. The Columbia River basalts, erupted 15 to 17 million
years ago, cover most of southeastern Washington and regions of
adjacent Oregon and Idaho.
Basaltic magma is commonly produced by direct melting of the Earth's
mantle, the region of the Earth below the outer crust. On continents,
the mantle begins at depths of 30 to 50 km.
Shield volcanoes, such as those that make up the Islands of Hawai`i, are
composed almost entirely of basalt.