Picrite basalt

Picrite basalt

Picrite basalt

Picrite basaltpicrobasalt is a variety of high-magnesium olivine basalt that is very rich in the mineral olivine. It is dark with yellow-green olivine phenocrysts (20 to 50%) and black to dark brown pyroxene, mostly augite.

The olivine-rich picrite basalts that occur with the more common tholeiitic basalts of Kīlauea and other volcanoes of the Hawaiian Islands are the result of accumulation of olivine crystals either in a portion of the magma chamber or in a caldera lava lake.The compositions of these rocks are well represented by mixes of olivine and more typical tholeiitic basalt.

The name “picrite” can also be applied to an olivine-rich alkali basalt: such picrite consists largely of phenocrystsof olivine and titanium-rich augite pyroxene with minor plagioclase set in a groundmass of augite and more sodic plagioclase and perhaps analcite and biotite.

Picrites and komatiites are somewhat similar chemically, but differ in that komatiite lavas are products of more magnesium-rich melts, and good examples exhibit the spinifex texture. In contrast, picrites are magnesium-rich because crystals of olivine have accumulated in more normal melts by magmatic processes. Komatiites are largely restricted to the Archean.

Picrite basalt

When the term oceanite was apparently first proposed by Antoine Lacroix, he used the term to apply only to basalts with more than 50% olivine content (an extremely rare occurrence). Picrite basalt is found in the lavas of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaiʻi, Curaçao, in the Piton de la Fournaise volcano on Réunion Island and various other oceanic island volcanoes.

  • Picrite basalt has been erupted in historical times from Mauna Loa during the eruptions of 1852 and 1868 (from different flanks of Mauna Loa).
  • Picrite basalt with 30% olivine commonly erupts from the Piton de la Fournaise

Picrite basalt


Oceanite is the name of variety of picritic basalt characterized by its large amounts of olivine phenocrysts and lesser amounts of augite and by having a groundmass of olivine, plagioclase and augite. The term was coined by Antoine Lacroix in 1923.

Common uses

Olivine basalt is commonly used by foundries, boilermakers and boiler users to protect the area around a burner tip or to protect a floor from molten metal and other slag. Its use in this fashion is appropriate since olivine is a highly refractory, high-melting-temperature mineral.

Picrite basalt

Basalt  is a common extrusive igneous (volcanic) rock formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava exposed at or very near the surface of a planet or moon. Flood basalt describes the formation in a series of lava basalt flows.

By definition, basalt is an aphanitic (fine-grained) igneous rock with generally 45-55% silica (SiO2) and less than 10% feldspathoid by volume, and where at least 65% of the rock is feldspar in the form of plagioclase. It is the most common volcanic rock type on Earth, being a key component of oceanic crust as well as the principal volcanic rock in many mid-oceanic islands, including Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Réunion and the islands of Hawaii. Basalt commonly features a very fine-grained or glassy matrix interspersed with visible mineral grains. The average density is 3.0 gm/cm3.

Basalt is defined by its mineral content and texture, and physical descriptions without mineralogical context may be unreliable in some circumstances. Basalt is usually grey to black in colour, but rapidly weathers to brown or rust-red due to oxidation of its mafic (iron-rich) minerals into hematite and other iron oxides and hydroxides. Although usually characterized as “dark”, basaltic rocks exhibit a wide range of shading due to regional geochemical processes. Due to weathering or high concentrations of plagioclase, some basalts can be quite light-coloured, superficially resembling andesite to untrained eyes. Basalt has a fine-grained mineral texture due to the molten rock cooling too quickly for large mineral crystals to grow; it is often porphyritic, containing larger crystals (phenocrysts) formed prior to the extrusion that brought the magma to the surface, embedded in a finer-grained matrix. These phenocrysts usually are of olivine or a calcium-rich plagioclase, which have the highest melting temperatures of the typical minerals that can crystallize from the melt.

Basalt with a vesicular texture is called vesicular basalt, when the bulk of the rock is mostly solid; when the vesicles are over half the volume of a specimen, it is called scoria. This texture forms when dissolved gases come out of solution and form bubbles as the magma decompresses as it reaches the surface, yet are trapped as the erupted lava hardens before the gases can escape.

Picrite basalt

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