Summary: The liquidus temperature (1198 °C) and equilibrium phase relations of a sample of Columbia River basalt from the Picture Gorge section have been determined at I atmosphere by heating in a controlled atmosphere. When this basalt is cooled from above its liquidus temperature the liquidus phase (plagioclase) may fail to crystallize depending on the degree of undercooling and the duration of the experiment. A field in temperature-time space in which plagioclase fails to crystallize on cooling is separated from another in which plagioclase always crystallizes by a third in which the nucleation of plagioclase is unpredictable in terms of temperature and time. The extent to which this basaltic liquid can be supercooled without the crystallization of plagioclase is independent of the time it is held above the liquidus or the temperature in excess of the liquidus to which it is heated.
The exceptionally long times required to ensure the nucleation of plagioclase at or near the liquidus temperature suggest that many so-called ‘equilibrium’ phase relations determined from experiments of a few hours' duration could be in serious error if the ‘equilibration’ involves a nucleation process.
It is demonstrated that, over a range of cooling rates, the temperature at which plagioclase begins to crystallize on cooling varies markedly and the temperature and times required for both possible and certain nucleation of plagioclase are calculated for a range of constant cooling rates. The range of cooling rates over which the nucleation temperature of plagioclase varies is likely to occur in nature only in certain lava flows and small minor intrusions. In such cases this could lead to changes in the order in which the minerals appear on cooling and other petrologically significant effects.