Massive fluid circulation in retrogressive ductile shear zones is a well-established but poorly understood phenomenon. In some cases, surface-derived fluids, which must initially have been at hydrostatic pressures, can be shown to have entered shear zones in which fluids would normally be expected to be at lithostatic pressure. In these circumstances, thermal convection is an unlikely driving force for fluid movement. Underthrusting of a surficial fluid reservoir beneath shear zones is a viable mechanism in some cases, but not for metasomatic shear zones in the Pyrenees where insufficient underthrusting has occurred. Seismic pumping provides an alternative mechanism to explain the paradox of fluid access into ductile shear zones; a kinematic analysis of a hypothetical fault zone shows that stress and dilatancy cycles will be out of phase above and below the frictional/quasiplastic transition. If this effect is sufficiently large, hydraulic gradients may force fluid downward across the transition immediately after earthquake rupture through highly permeable microcrack networks. Between earthquake cycles, plastic creep in mylonites will overprint microcrack networks, increase fluid pressure, and promote slow upward movement of fluid at low permeability. For smaller shear zones, such as those in the Pyrenees, seismic pumping could occur down a shallow decollement with subsequent upward fluid flow through shear zones in the hanging wall of the decollement.

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