Thermal and Kinetic Constraints on the Tectonic Applications of Thermobarometry

Peter D. Crowley
Department of Geology, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, U.S.A. and Geologisches Institut, ETH-Zentrum, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract: Metamorphic petrology, and in particular quantitative thermobarometry, offer the possibility of identifying faults in metamorphic terrains by the metamorphic and/or thermobarometric breaks that occur across them. Furthermore, the sense of the thermobarometric break (e.g. warmer, deeper rocks on top of colder, shallower ones) and its magnitude could be useful tools for determining the sense and magnitude of the fault. The sensitivity of thermobarometry to tectonic variables such as fault throw and uplift rate, has been tested by a series of one-dimensional numerical re-equilibration models for both thrust and normal faults. In each of these models, the post-tectonic re-equilibration of a model garnet-biotite geothermometer is simulated by coupling one-dimensional numerical thermal and garnet diffusion models. After cooling and uplift, a thermobarometric temperature was calculated by using a near-rim garnet composition (5–10 µm from the rim) calculated by the re-equilibration model and biotite from the model matrix. The models varied the thermal structure of the model orogen prior to faulting, the depth of the fault, the structural throw of the fault, and the uplift rate following faulting.

All models produced zoned garnet porphyroblasts that recorded P-T conditions that were different from those at the time of fault motion. Most of the models produced thermobarometric breaks that were in the same sense as the temperature break at the time of fault motion. Normal faults produced a normal thermobarometric gradient with higher temperatures recorded below the fault than above it. Many, but not all of the thrust models produced a thermobarometric inversion near the fault, with higher temperatures locally recorded above the fault than below it. However, the magnitude of thermobarometric break correlated poorly with the fault throw. Most models developed thermobarometric breaks that were much smaller than the breaks that existed at the time of fault motion. The size of the thermobarometric break was commonly of the same magnitude as would be generated from microprobe analytical error. The models suggest that for metamorphic rocks whose thermal peak does not exceed a narrowly defined closure temperature, thermobarometry faithfully recorded the P-T conditions of the metamorphic peak. The closure temperature increases slightly with increasing uplift rate, but overall is rather insensitive to the uplift rate or other tectonic variables. For rocks whose thermal peaks is above the closure temperature, however, the model thermobarometer recorded a temperature that was very close to the closure temperature.

Keywords: thermobarometry • faults • metamorphic petrology • garnet-biotite geothermometer

Mineralogical Magazine; March 1991 v. 55; no. 378; p. 57-69; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1991.055.378.05
© 1991, The Mineralogical Society
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