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Formation of metamorphic core complex in inherited wedges: A thermomechanical modelling study

Abstract : Metamorphic Core Complexes (MCCs) form when a thickened domain with a low-strength lower crust is submitted to extension. These structures are characteristic of post-orogenic extension, and field observations suggest that several MCCs rework a crustal nappe-stack emplaced before extension begins. These MCCs therefore develop within heterogeneous crusts that contain pre-existing dipping heterogeneities, such as thrust faults and dipping nappes in a crustal wedge. Although very common, this first order structural inheritance has never been considered in studies modelling MCCs. Our contribution therefore investigates the effect of an inherited crustal wedge structure on the dynamics and kinematics of formation of the MCCs, using fully coupled thermomechanical modelling. The wealth of petrological, structural and time informations available in the Cycladic MCCs (Aegean domain) allows setting up more realistic initial conditions for the experiments than usual flat-lying setups. It also allows the results of the numerical computation to be directly validated with final geometries, P-T paths and exhumation rates. The experiments using dipping heterogeneities are characterised by a much more complex evolution and final structure than their flat-lying layered equivalents. Dipping heterogeneities drive lateral strength contrasts and help to re-localise the deformation on successive detachments. The dip of the inherited wedge structures imposes kinematic constraints on the flow, which provides a model that explains the regional scale asymmetry of the Cycladic MCCs. The P-T paths, the exhumation rates and the final crustal structure that come out of an initial shallow-dipping wedge model provide a much more realistic comparison with their natural counter-parts than common flat-lying models. Other parameters, like crustal-scale density inversion, thermal structure and creep law parameters are of second order when compared to the initial wedge structure. Being little dependent on these second order parameters, the proposed model for the formation of MCCs within inherited crustal wedges is likely to be applied to other areas where the MCCs formed in a nappe stack involving continental basement.
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Benjamin Huet, Laetitia Le Pourhiet, Loic Labrousse, Evgenii Burov, Laurent Jolivet. Formation of metamorphic core complex in inherited wedges: A thermomechanical modelling study. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2011, 309 (3-4), pp.249-257. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2011.07.004⟩. ⟨insu-00616303⟩

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