Fluid Processes in Subduction Zones

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Science  20 Apr 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4953, pp. 329-337
DOI: 10.1126/science.248.4953.329


Fluids play a critical role in subduction zones and arc magmatism. At shallow levels in subduction zones (<40 kilometers depth), expulsion of large volumes of pore waters and CH4-H2O fluids produced by diagenetic and low-grade metamorphic reactions affect the thermal and rheological evolution of the accretionary prism and provide nutrients for deep-sea biological communities. At greater depths, H2O and CO2 released by metamorphic reactions in the subducting oceanic crust may alter the bulk composition in the overlying mantle wedge and trigger partial melting reactions. The location and conse-quences of fluid production in subduction zones can be constrained by consideration of phase diagrams for relevant bulk compositions in conjunction with fluid and rock pressure-temperature-time paths predicted by numerical heat-transfer models. Partial melting of subducting, amphibole-bearing oceanic crust is predicted only within several tens of million years of the initiation of subduction in young oceanic lithosphere. In cooler subduction zones, partial melting appears to occur primarily in the overlying mantle wedge as a result of fluid infiltration.