Overview of the Cenozoic Geology of the Northern Harrat Rahat Volcanic Field, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Professional Paper 1862-R
Jointly published with the Saudi Geological Survey [as Saudi Geological Survey Special Report SGS–SP–2021–1]
By:  and 



The Harrat Rahat volcanic field, located in the west-central part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is one of the larger Cenozoic harrats among the more than 17 harrats situated upon the Arabia Plate. The map plate contained herein shows, at a scale of 1:100,000, the mapped volcanic geology of northern Harrat Rahat, which consists of the northernmost one-fifth of Harrat Rahat. Northern Harrat Rahat has an area of about 3,340 square kilometers (km2), of which 2,567 km2 is covered by Harrat Rahat volcanic rocks and deposits, and it encompasses more than 900 exposed vents (that is, craters, cryptodomes, maars, and scoria cones), 289 of which are isolated by younger volcanic deposits and have not been correlated with the 234 volcanic rock units distinguished by geologic mapping.

Northern Harrat Rahat is of special interest owing to its proximity to the city of Al Madinah al Munawwarah, which sits within, and is continuing to expand southward over, the north end of the volcanic field. Al Madinah is home to an expanding population, currently at more than 2 million residents, together with the intermittent addition of approximately 3 million pilgrims during Hajj and Umrah (religious visitations). The center of Al Madinah is less than 8 km from lava flows of the only confirmed historically documented eruption, which occurred in 1256 C.E. (654 A.H.). Earlier prehistoric lava flows also encroached into the area of the present-day city limits, as demonstrated by volcanic rocks exposed widely throughout the city in roadcuts, parks, and excavations for new buildings, although no evidence has been found of any other than the 1256 C.E. lava having reached that area during times of human habitation.

Geologic mapping was undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with the Saudi Geological Survey. The features of primary interest within the map area are scoria cones, lava flows, lava domes, craters, and pyroclastic deposits from the Quaternary, which have compositions of basalt, hawaiite, mugearite, benmoreite, and trachyte. The geologic mapping was published by Downs and others (2019) on a single sheet at 1:75,000 scale and two detailed sheets at 1:25,000 scale, accompanied by detailed explanations of the geology. This report presents the geology on a single sheet at 1:100,000 scale and provides condensed geologic explanations for the convenience of readers of this volume. Some minor errors of nomenclature and lava source regions that do not change fundamental interpretations have been corrected herein.

Suggested Citation

Robinson, J.E., and Downs, D.T., 2023, Overview of the Cenozoic geology of the northern Harrat Rahat volcanic field, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, chap. R of Sisson, T.W., Calvert, A.T., and Mooney, W.D., eds., Active volcanism on the Arabian Shield—Geology, volcanology, and geophysics of northern Harrat Rahat and vicinity, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1862 [also released as Saudi Geological Survey Special Report SGS–SP–2021–1], 20 p., scale 1:100,000, https://doi.org/10.3133/pp1862R.

ISSN: 2330-7102 (online)

ISSN: 1044-9612 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Physiography
  • Access
  • Previous Mapping
  • Methods
  • Geologic and Tectonic Setting
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • Description of Map Units
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Overview of the Cenozoic geology of the northern Harrat Rahat volcanic field, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1862
Chapter R
DOI 10.3133/pp1862R
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description Report: v, 20 p.; 1 Plate: 58.72 x 39.51 inches; Data Release
Country Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details