The Siberian Traps represent one of the most voluminous flood basalt provinces on Earth. Laser-heating ^40Ar/^39Ar data indicate that the bulk of these basalts was erupted over an extremely short time interval (900,000 ± 800,000 years) beginning at about 248 million years ago at mean eruption rates of greater than 1.3 cubic kilometers per year. Such rates are consistent with a mantle plume origin. Magmatism was not associated with significant lithospheric rifting; thus, mantle decompression resulting from rifting was probably not the primary cause of widespread melting. Inception of Siberian Traps volcanism coincided (within uncertainty) with a profound faunal mass extinction at the Permo-Triassic boundary 249 ± 4 million years ago; these data thus leave open the question of a genetic relation between the two events.