In situ evidence of earthquakes near the crust mantle boundary initiated by mantle co2 fluxing and reaction-driven strain softening
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEarth and Planetary Science Letters. 2019, 524 . 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115713
This study aims to understand the process behind the worldwide connection between deep crustal/upper mantle earthquakes and CO2 emissions along faults in rift zones. We do this by studying CO2-induced mineral reactions that facilitate strain localization in peridotites from an ancient rift zone in the Seiland Igneous Province (SIP), North Norway. Strain localization in association with hydration processes is well documented in all types of tectonic settings and has major implications for rheological behavior in active plate margin processes. The implications of CO2-bearing fluids are less studied, though experiments have shown how CO2 can influence the flow laws of olivine by imposing a brittle and more localized type of deformation. This study documents narrow shear zones observed within ultramafic rocks from the Seiland Igneous Province (SIP) comprising large volumes (>20,000 km3) of mafic, ultramafic, silicic and alkaline melts that were emplaced into the lower continental crust (25–30 km) between 570 and 560 Ma under an extensional regime. The extensional shear zones are mm cm-scale and contain extremely fine-grained material with a distinct shape preferred orientation (SPO), but weak to absent crystallographic preferred orientation. The shear zones offset dykes across numerous micro-faults that are documented in areas close to a major fault zone cutting through the area. Within the shear zones, olivine and clinopyroxene react to form orthopyroxene and dolomite at approximately 11 kb and 850 °C according to the reaction: 2 Olivine + Clinopyroxene + 2 CO2 = Dolomite + 2 Orthopyroxene This reaction formed coronas of orthopyroxene and dolomite between olivine and clinopyroxene in the shear zones. In addition, large olivine grains proximal to the shear zones show a microfabric with subgrain walls decorated by rounded grains of dolomite and more irregular and elongated grains of orthopyroxene. Clinopyroxene grains are separated from the enstatite and dolomite by at least hundreds of microns, suggesting material transport within the shear zone. The shear zones thus provide a unique insight into the interplay between CO2-metasomatism and reaction accommodated strain softening. Carbonation-driven cracking and mineral reaction also serves to reduce grain size, making grain boundary sliding an efficient process, further enhancing the rheological contrast between the shear zone and the host rock. The sudden decrease in rock strength could lead to rapid deformation and triggered pseudotachylite formation during earthquake events in the near proximity of the micro-shear zones. Our observations match the relations between CO2 emissions and earthquakes observed in present rift environments such as the East African rift and in New Zealand, and underline the importance of active shear zones as fluid conduits in the lower crust and upper mantle.