Footwall Refrigeration Along a Detachment Fault: Implications for the Thermal Evolution of Core Complexes

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Science  02 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5347, pp. 63-66
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5347.63

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Oxygen isotope compositions of epidote and quartz from chloritic breccias that underlie the detachment fault in the metamorphic core complex of the Whipple Mountains yielded quartz-epidote fractionations that range from 4.1 to 6.4 per mil and increase systematically toward the fault. These fractionations give mean temperatures that decrease from ∼432°C at 50 meters below the fault to ∼350°C at 12 meters below the fault. This extreme thermal gradient of 82°C over 38 meters (2160°C per kilometer) is best explained by advective heat extraction by means of circulating surface-derived fluids. Models of lithospheric extension consider only conductive cooling resulting from tectonic denudation and thus require revision to include fluid-induced fault-zone refrigeration.

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