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Abstract

Submicroscopic microchemical disequilibrium in minerals is extremely widespread. Disequilibrium recrystallization is promoted by water in metamorphic terranes and near granites, contact aureoles, and faults. Recrystallization is energetically less costly at almost any temperature than diffusive re-equilibration.

Radiogenic isotopes (except 4He) never diffusively re-equilibrate faster than major elements forming the mineral structure. Isotopic inheritance tied to relicts was demonstrated for zircon, monazite, amphibole, K-feldspar, biotite and muscovite.

The mechanism for resetting the isotope record in nature depends more on the availability of recrystallization-enhancing water than on reaching a preset temperature. Laboratory diffusion experiments on hydrous minerals were plagued, to a variable but always large extent, by dissolution–reprecipitation. Mineral geochronometers should be viewed as ‘geohygrometers’ that essentially date the fluid circulation episodes.

Thanks to submicroscopic petrology, isotopic disequilibria can be put into context with petrogenetic disequilibria. Analytical advances allow the successful dating of each mineral generation. This has opened up a much richer wealth of data on the PTAXd history of rocks, which in the long run will also improve our ability to develop credible numeric models.

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