Initiation of ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism and its significance on the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic boundary

S. Maruyama, J. G. Liou

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Ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) metamorphism began at 540-530 Ma near the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary, and repeated more than 10 times through the Phanerozoic, indicating one of the most prominent tectonic aspects of the Phanerozoic Earth. The preceding subduction zone metamorphism back to the Archean had been of the intermediate- to low-P type. An apparent change in the P/T conditions of subduction zone metamorphism occurred at the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary at ca 544 Ma. At ~200 million years earlier than the initiation of UHP metamorphism, blueschist facies metamorphism occurred along the northern margin of the Tarim craton. A transitional period between the Proterozoic and Phanerozoic at 750-540 Ma corresponds to the initiation of blueschist facies metamorphism at the subduction zone; the cooling Earth dropped its geothermal gradient which intersected the blueschist facies P-T field. An abrupt change in the geothermal gradient from 22-15°C/km (Archean-Proterozoic) to 6-7°/km (Phanerozoic) to initiate UHP metamorphism may correspond to a rather abrupt increase of slab-pull driving force at the beginning of the Phanerozoic. Large amount sof heat loss from the Earth's interior may have occurred just before 540 Ma; presumably it may correspond to the duration from the breakup of supercontinent Rodinia at 750 Ma, to the formation of the next supercontinent Gondwana at 540 Ma. The complex scenario of these phenomena may be triggered and linked by a sudden increase in the plate-driving force of slab-pull during 750-540 Ma, which allowed buoyant continental crust ot be subducted to a 150 km depth and subjected to UHP metamorphism. The increased slab-pull force reflects an increase in plate thickness, and is the surface manifestation of the loss of a large amount of internal heat from the Earth's interior before the initiation of UHP metamorphism. It occurred in a short time san (750-540 Ma) from rifting of Rodinia to amalgamation of the next supercontinent Gondwana. Since then, old slabs with deep oceans survived, large landmasses raised above sea-level, the surface environment diversified, and the explosion of life accelerated before and after the mass extinction that occurred at 550-540 Ma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-35
Number of pages30
JournalIsland Arc
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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