On the meaning of peak temperature profiles in inverted metamorphic sequences

Abstract : Inverted metamorphic sequences (IMS) are common features of main thrust systems on Earth. They exhibit an upwards continuous increase in peak temperature conditions and thereby constitute evidence of the close relationship between the thermal field evolution and tectonic processes. Heat advection and shear heating are known to allow the formation of such metamorphic signatures. Heat diffusion also plays an important role in temperature distribution on both sides of the thrust. Other advection processes such as erosion or accretion may also cause a local peak temperature inversion. Each one of these processes therefore affects the thermal field around the thrust. However, despite the crucial importance of all these processes for the interpretation of the inverted peak temperature signatures, their respective influences have never been quantified and compared all together. To address this issue, we propose an innovative coupled approach. (i) We use two-dimensional numerical models that simulate various thrust systems, allowing for a wide diversity of setups. To illustrate this study, we focus on intracontinental thrust systems for which all processes listed are likely to play a key role in the thermal evolution. We perform a parametric study including kinematic settings (i.e. convergence, erosion and accretion), thermal properties, mechanical strength and heat sources. (ii) Dimensionless numbers based on parameters are used to quantify the relative contributions of each process to the thermal budget evolution. Hence, the three thermal processes (i.e. heat diffusion, heat advection and shear heating) are compared with each other via three dimensionless combinations of the Peclet and Brinkman numbers: RDif, RAdv and RPro, respectively. Erosion and accretion are compared separately, based on a fourth dimensionless number Rea. (iii) We analytically examine the inverted peak temperature recorded along profiles that are perpendicular to the thrust zone defined in our numerical experiments. Each peak temperature profile presenting an inversion can then be characterized by a function of approximation involving six meaningful parameters: the location μFF and width σFF of the maximum peak temperature inversion, the characteristic peak temperature Tcte and gradient GLB beneath the inversion zone, and the inversion-related contrasts in the peak temperature ΔT and gradient ΔG. This coupled approach, linking numerical modelling and analytical treatment, allows to quantitatively interpret IMS in terms of the processes involved. The application of our method to intracontinental thrust systems demonstrates that shear heating and erosion support significant inversions, but that the relative contributions of each process have meaningful consequences. Our results reveal that competition between shear heating and heat diffusion on the one hand, and between erosion and accretion on the other hand have a high impact. In particular, the variability in the rock's mechanical strength strongly influences the features of peak temperature inversions. Consequently, none of these processes can be ignored. Our results highlight the major importance of the rheology of rocks in the thermal evolution of shear zones. Finally, our methodology is not only restricted to the analysis of numerical data but also constitutes a way of broad interest to analyse peak temperature signatures around any shear zone.
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Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2017, 210 (1), pp.130-147. 〈10.1093/gji/ggx129〉
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Sylvia Duprat-Oualid, Philippe Yamato. On the meaning of peak temperature profiles in inverted metamorphic sequences. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2017, 210 (1), pp.130-147. 〈10.1093/gji/ggx129〉. 〈insu-01533362〉

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