What are Large Igneous Provinces?

Earth history is punctuated by short duration events (or dramatic pulses in longer duration events) during which large volumes of mainly mafic magmas were generated and emplaced by processes unrelated to “normal” sea-floor spreading and subduction. These Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs) are best preserved in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic where they occur as continental flood basalts, volcanic rifted margins, oceanic plateaus, and ocean basin flood basalts. Silicic rocks may also be associated.

Many LIPs can be linked to regional-scale uplift, continental rifting and breakup, and climatic shifts. In the Paleozoic and Proterozoic, LIPs are typically deeply eroded. They are represented by deep-level plumbing systems consisting of giant dyke swarms, sill provinces and layered intrusions. In the Archean the most promising LIP candidates are greenstone belts containing komatiites.

Large Igneous Provinces of the Circum-Pacific region (in red) emplaced since 250 Ma. From cover of Mahoney, J.J. and M.F. Coffin (eds.), Large Igneous Provinces: Continental, oceanic, and planetary flood volcanism. Amer. Geophys. Union Geophys. Mon. 100: 438 p., 1997.

Large Igneous Provinces book

What is the LIPs Commission?

The LIPs Commission was established to promote interest in large igneous provinces, encourage research, and foster global collaboration among earth scientists. It is one of several commissions under the umbrella of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI; http://www.iavcei.org/). The interests of LIPs Commission members range widely. The Commission links many geoscience disciplines and applies the broadest range of expertise to specific problems.

History of the LIPs Commission

The LIPs Commission was formed in 1993, as the scale and importance of LIPs in Earth history was appreciated, and the need for an international multidisciplinary effort recognized.

Led by Drs. Mike Coffin and John Mahoney between 1993 and1998, the study of LIPs expanded, particularly that of oceanic plateaus and ocean basin flood basalts. An important publication was: Mahoney & Coffin (eds.) Large Igneous Provinces: Continental, Oceanic and Planetary Flood Volcanism. AGU Geophys. Mon. 100, 1997.

From 1998 to 2003, under the leadership of Drs. Martin Menzies and John Hopper, the Commission focussed on volcanic rifted margins (including seaward dipping reflectors and high velocity lower crust). A key publication is: Menzies et al. Volcanic Rifted Margins Geological Society of America Spec. Paper 362, 2002

From 2003 to 2013 it has been co-led by Drs. Richard Ernst and Ian Campbell, with a focus on LIPs through time, planetary LIPs and the debate on mantle plume vs. non-plume origins for LIPs.

From 2013 to 2021 it has been led by Dr. Richard Ernst (President), with Drs. Simon Jowitt, Ingrid Ukstins and Mike Widdowson (as VPs) and with Dr. Scott Bryan (as representative on the IAVCEI Liaison Committee).

Current Themes

  • temporal distribution of LIPs (frequency, superplume events, links with climate change)
  • spatial distribution of LIPS (spacing, link with uplift, link with rifting/breakup)
  • interplanetary LIPs (Venus, Mars, and Mercury)
  • origin of LIPs (plume and non-plume origins)

Current Leaders


Dr. Richard E. Ernst

Scientist in Residence,
Dept. of Earth Sciences, Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, CANADA


Faculty of Geology and Geography
Tomsk State University
36 Lenin Ave, Tomsk 634050, RUSSIA
Tomsk, Russia

Tel: 1-613-295-7955
Email: Richard.Ernst@ErnstGeosciences.com
Webpage: http://earthsci.carleton.ca/ernst-lab

Vice Presidents:

Dr. Simon Jowitt

Assistant Professor - Economic Geology
Department of Geoscience
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4010
Email: simon.jowitt@unlv.edu
Tel: +1-702-895-2447

Dr. Hafida El Bilali
Department of Earth Sciences,
1125 Colonel By Drive
Carleton University
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, CANADA
Email: hafidaelbilali@cunet.carleton.ca
Tel: +1-613-262-5042

Dr. Mike Widdowson
University Lecturer in Volcanology
Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems
The Open University, Walton Hall
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
Tel: 01908 652986
Fax: 01908 655151
Webpage: http://science-people.open.ac.uk/m.widdowson

Representative on the IAVCEI Liaison Committee:

Dr. Scott Bryan
Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow
School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences
Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434
Brisbane, Qld  4001, AUSTRALIA
Tel:  +61 7 3138 4827
Fax: +61 7 3138 2330
Email: scott.bryan@qut.edu.au

LIP Steering Committee members and their “portfolios”

Nicholas Arndt (LGCA, Univ. Grenoble, Grenoble, France)

Assessing Archean greenstone belts in a LIP context.

write Firstname.Lastname_AT_ujf-grenoble.fr (substitute “Nicholas.Arndt@” for “Firstname.Lastname_AT_”)

Millard F. Coffin (ORI, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan)

Geophysics of LIPs; impact origin of LIPs.


Kent C. Condie (Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, USA)

Secular changes in LIPs and their mantle sources; distinguishing oceanic LIPs from oceanic crust (ophiolites).


Vincent Courtillot (Laboratoire de Paleomagnetisme, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, et Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France)

Environmental effects of LIPs (with focus on climatic effects of trap generated aerosols).


Robert A. Duncan (COAS, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA)

Ar-Ar dating of LIPs.


Gillian R. Foulger (Dept. Earth Sciences, University of Durham, Science Laboratories, South Rd., Durham DH1 3LE, U.K.)

Assessing plume and alternative models for LIP generation.


James W. Head III (Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, USA)

Planetary LIPs.


Andrew C. Kerr (School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales)

Oceanic plateaus, with a focus on deformed/accreted examples.


Jun Korenaga (Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, USA)

Mantle convection modeling and implications for generation of LIPs, with a focus on the role of lithospheric mantle.


Shigenori Maruyama (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan)

Superplumes and the integration of plate tectonic and plume tectonic systems.


Martin A. Menzies (Dept. of Geology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK)

Volcanic rifted margins.


Franco Pirajno (Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

LIPs through time and links with ore deposits.


Don J. Schissel (BHP Billiton World Exploration Inc., Vancouver, Canada)

LIP-related ore deposits.


Bryan C. Storey (Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Links between LIPs and breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana.


Eiichi Takahashi (Earth and Planetary Science Department, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan)

Experimental petrology and implications for LIP generation, with a focus on the role of eclogite.


Dominique Weis (Pacific Centre for Isotope and Geochemical Research, Department of Earth Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Isotopic geochemistry of LIPs.


Paul Wignall (School of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Environmental and climatic effects of LIPs.


Lionel Wilson (Environmental Science Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Mechanisms for the emplacement of LIPs; planetary LIPs.


Michael T.D. Wingate (Geological Survey of Western Australia, Perth, Australia)

U-Pb dating and paleomagnetism of mafic units and implications for paleocontinental reconstructions.


Yigang Xu (Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China)

Domal uplift and regional variation in LIP geochemistry: tools for assessing plume involvement.


Scott Bryan (School of Earth Sciences & Geography, Kingston University, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, United Kingdom)

Silicic Large Igneous Provinces