Abstract

The densification of the lower crust in collision and subduction zones plays a key role in shaping the Earth by modifying the buoyancy forces acting at convergent boundaries. It takes place through mineralogical reactions, which are kinetically favored by the presence of fluids. Earthquakes may generate faults serving as fluid pathways, but the influence of reactions on the generation of seismicity at depth is still poorly constrained. Here we present new petrological data and numerical models to show that in the presence of fluids, densification reactions can occur very fast, on the order of weeks, and consume fluids injected during an earthquake, which leads to porosity formation and fluid pressure drop by several hundreds of megapascals. This generates a mechanically highly unstable system subject to collapse and further seismic-wave emission during aftershocks. This mechanism creates new pathways for subsequently arriving fluids, and thus provides a route for self-sustained densification of the lower crust.

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