Hot, wide, continental back-arcs explain Earth’s enigmatic mid-Proterozoic magmatic and metamorphic record

Roberts, Nick; Condie, Kent; Palin, Richard; Spencer, Christopher. 2023 Hot, wide, continental back-arcs explain Earth’s enigmatic mid-Proterozoic magmatic and metamorphic record. Tektonika, 1 (1).

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Higher than average thermobaric ratios (temperature/pressure) of metamorphic rocks and abundant ‘dry’ ferroan magmatism including massif anorthosite suites are two enigmatic features of the mid-Proterozoic (1.85–0.85 Ga) that have unclear origins. It has been proposed that elevated mantle temperatures due to insulation under the Columbia supercontinent, and/or to plate slowdown, combined with thin lithosphere, led to high continental geothermal gradients, high-temperature metamorphism, and an increase in dry, ferroan magmatism. Geodynamic modelling predicts that continental subduction zones at mid-Proterozoic mantle potential temperatures (80–150 °C hotter than at present) would exhibit key differences to the Phanerozoic, critically, extensive slab rollback combined with greater volumes of decompression melting of the asthenosphere would lead to wide regions of back-arc magmatism. We posit that these hot, wide continental back-arcs can effectively explain the abundance of ferroan magmatism, anorthosite suites, and high T/P metamorphism. Our model negates the need for extra mantle heating from supercontinental insulation or plate slowdown and shows that the tectonic regime of the mid-Proterozoic was a transitional phase between those of the Archean (likely comprising peel-back tectonics and episodic subduction) and the Phanerozoic (comprising deep continental subduction), and which could have resulted solely from secular cooling of the mantle.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2976548X
Date made live: 06 Jun 2023 13:12 +0 (UTC)

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