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Nonlithostatic pressure during subduction and collision and the formation of (ultra)high-pressure rocks

Georg Reuber, Boris J. P. Kaus, Stefan M. Schmalholz and Richard W. White
Nonlithostatic pressure during subduction and collision and the formation of (ultra)high-pressure rocks
Geology (Boulder) (May 2016) 44 (5): 343-346


The mechanisms that result in the formation of high-pressure (HP) and ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) rocks are controversial. The usual interpretation assumes that pressure is close to lithostatic, petrological pressure estimates can be transferred to depth, and (U)HP rocks have been exhumed from great depth. An alternative explanation is that pressure can be larger than lithostatic, particularly in continental collision zones, and (U)HP rocks could thus have formed at shallower depths. To better understand the mechanical feasibility of these hypotheses, we performed thermomechanical numerical simulations of a typical subduction and collision scenario. If the subducting crust is laterally homogeneous and has small effective friction angles (and is thus weak), we reproduce earlier findings that <20% deviation of lithostatic pressure occurs within a subduction channel. However, many orogenies involve rocks that are dry and strong, and the crust is mechanically heterogeneous. If these factors are taken into account, simulations show that pressures can be significantly larger than lithostatic within nappe-size, mechanically strong crustal units, or within a strong lower crust, as a result of tectonic deformation. Systematic simulations show that these effects are most pronounced at the base of the crust (at approximately 40 km), where pressures can reach 2-3 GPa (therefore within the coesite stability field) for millions of years. These pressures are often released rapidly during ongoing deformation. Relating metamorphic pressure estimates to depth might thus be problematic in mechanically heterogeneous crustal rock units that appear to have been exhumed in an ultrafast manner.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 44
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Nonlithostatic pressure during subduction and collision and the formation of (ultra)high-pressure rocks
Affiliation: Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Institute of Geosciences, Mainz, Germany
Pages: 343-346
Published: 201605
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 23
Accession Number: 2016-054050
Categories: Igneous and metamorphic petrologySolid-earth geophysics
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2016107
Illustration Description: illus.
Secondary Affiliation: University of Lausanne, CHE, Switzerland
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201626
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