Back in 2014, I took the train to Oregon from the East Coast (and highly recommend long train journeys–it’s a great way to see a lot of country). From Spokane, Washington, down to Portland, Oregon, the rail went through the Columbia River Basalts.
Flood basalts are incredible features anyway, but this landscape looked like an alien world. Long after the lava had hardened, ice-age megafloods pounded the land, carving new channels, deep holes, and strange-looking contours in the dark rocky cliffs.
Those hours of travel were fascinating, but it would have remained just a nice travel memory had a paper on the Columbia River Flood Basalts not made the news this past week.
It turns out that the Columbia River Flood Basalts very probably changed Earth’s climate, back in the day (the Miocene), causing it to warm up for several million years.
So I looked around and found the video below. Even though it is only a draft from Columbia Gorge Community College, it has great views of the basalts. And there is a geologist there to tell you what you’re looking at! The quality is rough in spots, but hang in there during the part where it goes black; video will return.
And even in draft form, this really does show the scale of these things:
A little lagniappe. It’s entertaining, even if it is long (a little over an hour) and in lecture form, and gives more information and perspective:
Edited September 23, 2018, 8:01 p.m. Pacific.