Geophysics: hot fluids or rock in eclogite metamorphism?

Nature. 2006 Mar 16;440(7082):E4; discussion E4-5. doi: 10.1038/nature04714.


The mechanisms by which mafic rocks become converted to denser eclogite in the lower crust and mantle are fundamental to our understanding of subduction, mountain building and the long-term geochemical evolution of Earth. Based on larger-than-expected gradients in argon isotopes, Camacho et al. propose a new explanation--co-seismic injection of hot (700 degrees C) aqueous fluids into much colder (400 degrees C) crust--for the localized nature of eclogite metamorphism during Caledonian crustal thickening, as recorded in the rocks of Holsnøy in the Bergen arcs, western Norway. We have studied these unusual rocks, which were thoroughly dehydrated under granulite facies conditions during a Neoproterozoic event (about 945 million years (945 Myr) ago); we also concluded that fracture-hosted fluids were essential as catalysts and components in the conversion to eclogite about 425 Myr ago. However, we are sceptical of the assertion by Camacho et al. that eclogite temperatures were reached only in the vicinity of fluid-filled fractures. Determining whether these rocks were strong enough to fracture at depths of 50 km because they were cold or because they were very dry is crucial to understanding the mechanics of the lower crust in mountain belts, including, for example, the causes of seismicity in the Indian plate beneath the modern Himalayas.

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