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Differentiated Archean oceanic crust: Its thermal structure, mechanical stability and a test of the sagduction hypothesis

Abstract : Many recent studies conclude that plate tectonics started about 3 billion years ago in the mid Archean. The transition from a pre-subduction regime to modern plate tectonics is reported to be marked by changes in trace element ratios or isotopic compositions that monitor the rate of growth of the continental crust, the appearance of eclogitic inclusions in diamonds, or an apparent change in the composition of the upper crust. Behind most of these arguments is the hypothesis that, early in Earth history when the mantle was hotter, subduction was intermittent or impossible. If so, a mechanism other than subduction must have created the granitoids that dominate Archean continental crust. One alternative, commonly referred to as sagduction, proposes that the base of thick oceanic crust founders and partially melts to generate granitic magma. Here we evaluate the sagduction process, starting by discussing two crucial concepts: (1) thick oceanic crust is internally differentiated, with hydrated basalt being restricted to the uppermost layers, (2) the generation of granitic magma requires that water and basalt is present in the lower part of the crust or is taken deep into the mantle. We present the results of numerical modelling that demonstrates that when intrusion is taken into account, the lower portion of the crust is well above dehydration temperatures and therefore essentially dry. We show that any deformation within thick, differentiated crust is restricted to the lowermost layers of dry, infertile mafic-ultramafic cumulates that lack the ingredients essential for the generation of granitic magma. Given the implausibility of the sagduction process, we suggest that subduction was the main mechanism that generated granitoid magmas, in the Archean as today.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - 4:18:49 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 7, 2022 - 1:58:33 PM

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Alberto Roman, Nicholas Arndt. Differentiated Archean oceanic crust: Its thermal structure, mechanical stability and a test of the sagduction hypothesis. GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA, 2020, 278, pp.65-77. ⟨10.1016/j.gca.2019.07.009⟩. ⟨insu-03584767⟩

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