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Exhumation of high-pressure rocks driven by slab rollback

Abstract : Rocks metamorphosed under high-pressure (HP) and ultra high-pressure (UHP) conditions in subduction zones come back to the surface relatively soon after their burial and at rates comparable to plate boundary velocities. In the Mediterranean realm, their occurrence in several belts related to a single subduction event shows that the burial­exhumation cycle is a recurrent transient process. Using the Calabria­Apennine and Aegean belts as examples, we show that the exhumation of HP rocks is associated in time and space with the subduction of small continental lithosphere blocks that triggers slab rollback, creating the necessary space for the exhumation of the buoyant continental crust that was deeply buried just before. The buoyancy force of the subducted crust increases until this crust detaches from the downgoing slab. It then exhumes at a rate that depends directly on the velocity of trench retreat to become part of the overriding plate. Heated from below by the asthenosphere that flows into the opening mantle wedge, the exhumed crust weakens and undergoes core-complex-type extension, responsible for a second stage of exhumation at a lower rate. The full sequence of events that characterizes this model (crust­mantle delamination, slab rollback and trench retreat, HP rock exhumation, asthenosphere heating and core-complex formation) arises entirely from the initial condition imposed by the subduction of a small continental block. No specific condition is required regarding the rheology and erosion rate of HP rocks. The burial­exhumation cycle is transient and can recur every time a small continental block is subducted.
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C. Faccenna, Jean-Pierre Brun. Exhumation of high-pressure rocks driven by slab rollback. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2008, 272 (1-2), pp.1-7. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2008.02.038⟩. ⟨insu-00334786⟩

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