Combustion Metamorphism in Southern California

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Science  06 Aug 1976:
Vol. 193, Issue 4252, pp. 486-488
DOI: 10.1126/science.193.4252.486


In several places in Southern California bituminous sediments of the Monterey Formation—siliceous shales, phosphatic rocks, dolomites, and arkoses—were affected during the Pleistocene and as late as the l9th century by spontaneous subsurface combustion of organic matter, during which temperatures up to 1600°C were reached. This oxidative heating (combustion metamorphism) affected rock complexes over areas of tens of square kilometers that tend to occur in clusters. As a result of these processes, the rocks recrystallized and partially melted to form pseudomagmas which intruded the country rocks. The chemical compositions of these melts differ from those of igneous magmas. Acid and intermediate siliceous melts as well as phosphatic melts have formed. These two types are generally immiscible. The following high-temperature minerals were determined: α- and β-cristobalite, quartz, calcic plagioclase, diopsidic pyroxene, wollastonite, cordierite, graphite, fluorapatite, and fluorite; at lower temperature pyrite, gypsum, aragonite, calcite, jarosite, and hexahydrite crystallized.