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Geologic map of the northern Harrat Rahat volcanic field, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

January 1, 2019

Harrat Rahat, in the west-central part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest of 15 Cenozoic harrats (Arabic for “volcanic field”) distributed on the Arabian plate. It extends more than 300 km north-south and 50 to 75 km east-west, and it covers an area of approximately 20,000 km2, has a volume of approximately 2,000 km3, and encompasses more than 900 observable vents. Volcanism commenced around 10 Ma and has continued into historic time, the most recent eruption occurring in 1256 C.E. Volcanic products are dominated by alkali basalt and hawaiite lava flows, with subordinate mugearite lava flows, as well as benmoreite and trachyte lava flows, domes, and pyroclastic flows.

This geologic map distinguishes 239 eruptive units that cover an area of 3,340 km2 in northern Harrat Rahat and the adjacent city of Al-Madinah. Results are presented as a geologic map of the study area at 1:75,000 scale and of smaller regions of particular interest at 1:25,000 scale, along with interpretive text.

Most units are basaltic lava flows that erupted from the broadly north-northwest-trending main vent axis that constructed the topographic crest of the volcanic field. This 300- to 400-m-high vent axis, which has a width of 6 to 10 km, lies in the eastern one-third of northern Harrat Rahat. Basalt and hawaiite lava flows can extend as far as 27 km from their vents, but most are 10 to 15 km long. Evolved products such as mugearites, benmoreites, and trachytes are less extensive; the trachytic pyroclastic flows extend as far as 9 km from their source vents, although most only reach 4 to 6 km. Vents of the evolved products are restricted to the main vent axis or its flanks.

No volcanic rocks older than 1.2 Ma are exposed in the map area, and about 90 percent of the exposed volcanic rocks erupted during the past 570 thousand years. As depicted on the geologic maps, eruption ages and field relations define 12 eruptive stages for northern Harrat Rahat for the past 1.2 million years. Other important geochronological findings include (1) several late Pleistocene lava flows near Al-Madinah, which previously were interpreted as Holocene from archeological evidence; (2) the eruption age of a cluster of cinder cones and small lava flows in the western outskirts of Al-Madinah (previously ascribed to an eruption in 641 C.E.) is actually 13.3±1.9 ka, close to the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary; and (3) only two Holocene eruptions have been identified in the map area, those of the historically described basalt of Al Labah in 1256 C.E. and the dome and pyroclastic flows of the trachyte of Um Rgaibah at 4.2±5.2 ka.

Publication Year 2019
Title Geologic map of the northern Harrat Rahat volcanic field, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
DOI 10.3133/sim3428
Authors Drew T. Downs, Joel E. Robinson, Mark E. Stelten, Duane E. Champion, Hannah R. Dietterich, Thomas W. Sisson, Hani M. Zahran, Khalid Hassan, Jamal Shawali
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3428
Index ID sim3428
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center