Thermal Evolution of Plutons: A Parameterized Approach

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Science  18 Jan 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4428, pp. 299-301
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4428.299


A conservation-of-energy equation has been derived for the spatially averaged magma temperature in a spherical pluton undergoing simultaneous crystallization and both internal (magma) and external (hydrothermal fluid) thermal convection. The model accounts for the dependence of magma viscosity on crystallinity, temperature, and bulk composition; it includes latent heat effects and the effects of different initial water concentrations in the melt and quantitatively considers the role that large volumes of circulatory hydrothermal fluids play in dissipating heat. The nonlinear ordinary differential equation describing these processes has been solved for a variety of magma compositions, initial termperatures, initial crystallinities, volume ratios of hydrothermal fluid to magma, and pluton sizes. These calculations are graphically summarized in plots of the average magma temperature versus time after emplacement. Solidification times, defined as the time necessary for magma to cool from the initial emplacement temperature to the solidus temperature vary as R1,3, where R is the pluton radius. The solidification time of a pluton with a radius of 1 kilometer is 5 x 104 years; for an otherwise identical pluton with a radius of 10 kilometers, the solidification time is ∼106 years. The water content has a marked effect on the solidification time. A granodiorite pluton with a radius of 5 kilometers and either 0.5 or 4 percent (by weight) water cools in 3.3 x 105 or 5 x 104 years, respectively. Convection solidification times are usually but not always less than conduction cooling times.