AskDefine | Define diabase

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A fine-grained igneous rock composed mostly of pyroxene and feldspar

Extensive Definition

Diabase () is a mafic, holocrystalline, igneous rock equivalent to volcanic basalt or plutonic gabbro. Diabase is also called dolerite in many references outside North America. Diabase dikes and sills are typically shallow intrusive bodies and often exhibit fine grained to aphanitic chilled margins which may contain tachylite (dark mafic glass).
Diabase normally has a fine, but visible texture of euhedral lath shaped plagioclase crystals (62%) set in a finer matrix of clinopyroxene, typically augite (20-29%), with minor olivine (3% up to 12% in olivine diabase), magnetite (2%) and ilmenite (2%). Accessory and alteration minerals include hornblende, biotite, apatite, pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, serpentine, chlorite, and calcite. The texture is termed diabasic and is typical of diabases. This diabasic texture is also termed interstitial. The feldspar is high in anorthite (as opposed to albite), the calcium end member of the plagioclase Anorthite-Albite solid solution series, most commonly labradorite.


Diabase is usually found in smaller relatively shallow intrusive bodies such as dikes and sills. Diabase dikes occur in regions of crustal extension and often occur in dike swarms of hundreds of individual dikes or sills radiating from a single volcanic center.
The Palisades Sill which makes up the New Jersey Palisades on the Hudson River, near New York City, is an example of a diabase sill. The dike complexes of the Hebridean Tertiary volcanic province which includes Skye, Rum, Mull, and Arran of western Scotland, the Slieve Gullion region of Ireland, and extends across northern England contains many examples of diabase dike swarms. Parts of the Deccan Traps of India, formed at the end of the Cretaceous also includes dolerite. It is also abundant in large parts of Curaçao, an island off the coast of Venezuela.
In Western Australia a 200 km long dolerite dyke, the Norseman–Wiluna Belt is associated with the non-alluvial gold mining area between Norseman and Kalgoolie, which includes the largest gold mine in Australia, the Fimiston Superpit.
The vast areas of mafic volcanism/plutonism associated with the Jurassic breakup of Gondwanaland in the Southern Hemisphere include many large diabase/dolerite sills and dike swarms. These include the Karoo dolerites of South Africa, the Ferrar Dolerites of Antarctica, and the largest of these, indeed the most extensive of all dolerite formations worldwide, are found in Tasmania. Here, the volume of magma which intruded into a thin veneer of Permian and Jurassic rocks from multiple feeder sites, over a period of perhaps a million years, may have exceeded 40,000 cubic kilometres. In Tasmania alone dolerite dominates the landscape.


In non North American usage dolerite is often preferred and diabase is used to refer to an altered dolerite. Dolerite (Greek: doleros, meaning "deceptive") was the name given by Haüy in his 1822 Traité de minéralogie. In current geologic usage diabase is preferred.

Inscription controversy

During seven centuries a diabase formation called Runamo was famous in Scandinavia as a runic inscription, until it became the object of a famous scientific controversy in the first half of the 19th century.


diabase in German: Diabas
diabase in Estonian: Diabaas
diabase in French: Diabase
diabase in Japanese: 輝緑岩
diabase in Polish: Diabaz
diabase in Portuguese: Diábase
diabase in Finnish: Diabaasi
diabase in Swedish: Diabas
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