Abstract

The comparative study of Archean and post-Archean granitic rocks shows significant changes with time. The high rare-earth element fractionation and the low Yb content of the Archean granitoids indicate the major role of garnet and hornblende, whereas these two minerals do not play a prominent part in the genesis of modern granitic rocks. This difference is a direct consequence of the cooling of Earth.

In Archean time the subducted oceanic crust was young and warm, so it reached the conditions of melting before dehydration had occurred, leaving a garnet- and hornblende-bearing residue. In contrast, the modern subducted oceanic slab is generally old and cold, so it is dehydrated before it reaches the melting conditions of hydrous tholeiite; therefore, in the absence of a hydrous phase, it cannot melt at shallow depth. The fluids produced by dehydration reactions of modern crust rehydrate the overlying mantle wedge, which, in consequence, can undergo partial melting and give rise to calc-alkaline magmas; in this case, olivine and pyroxene are the most important residual phases. The location of calc-alkaline magma genesis in subduction-zone environments has migrated over time from the subducted Archean oceanic crust to the mantle wedge, a migration attributed to the progressive cooling of Earth.

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