On the occurrence and characterization of ultrahigh-temperature crustal metamorphism

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Ultrahigh-temperature (UHT) crustal metamorphism is a division of medium-pressure granulite facies metamorphism where peak temperatures of 900–1100°C have been attained at pressures in the range 7–13 kbar. The key indicators of UHT conditions are mineral assemblages involving combinations of sapphirine, garnet, aluminous orthopyroxene, cordierite, sillimanite, spinel and quartz in pelites and quartzites. Experimentally constrained and calculated FMAS and KFMASH petrogenetic grids involving these phases and additional osumilite and melt indicate that sapphirine + quartz is stable only at >1040°C in reduced rocks, that osumilite is restricted to >900°C for pressures greater than 6 kbar and has an ultimate stability limit of 9 kbar in FMAS, and that the orthopyroxene + sillimanite + quartz assemblage is restricted to pressures greater than 8 kbar in KFMASH. These criteria, coupled with the grids isoplethed for the Mg/(Mg + Fe) of garnet and Al-content of orthopyroxene allow the peak pressure-temperature (P-T) conditions of several UHT occurrences to be defined and the post-peak P-T paths delineated.

UHT conditions are seldom determined from slowly cooled granulites using conventional geothermometry principally because of the propensity of Fe-Mg exchange thermometry to only record closure temperatures of 700–850°C. However, pressure-convergence calculations for several granulites with UHT mineral assemblages yield back-calculated mineral compositions that are consistent with temperatures of 950–1000°C prior to post-peak Fe-Mg re-equilibration. The best compositional indicator of UHT conditions remains the preservation of high Al2O3 contents (8–12 wt%) in orthopyroxene coexisting with garnet, sillimanite or sapphirine.

The P-T conditions and records preserved in the currently documented UHT localities and terranes are varied. Both types of post-peak P-T path isobaric cooling and isothermal decompression (ITD) are recorded from reaction textures in different UHT terranes, and several preserve very similar ITD histories that may reflect the final stage of collisional orogenesis. Although counter-clockwise and clockwise P-T paths have been proposed on the basis of textural observation for some terranes, the prograde P-T histories of most UHT areas are not known. Such information, and further experimental constraints on quartz-absent assemblages at UHT conditions, are of prime importance to interpret further this extreme form of crustal metamorphism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-107
Number of pages27
JournalGeological Society Special Publications
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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