Heat-Producing Elements and the Thermal and Baric Patterns of Metamorphic Belts

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Science  09 Nov 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4982, pp. 763-769
DOI: 10.1126/science.250.4982.763


The character of sedimentary basins, before they are deformed and metamorphosed, may strongly influence the thermal and baric patterns of metamorphic belts. Crustal thickening of anoxic sedimentary basins and subsequent thermal reequilibration may produce large areas of high-grade metamorphic rocks and granites because the concentrations of the heat-producing elements are high in such basins. In New England there is a spatial association among granites and high-grade metasedimentary rocks rich in U and Th that now form the Central Maine terrane. The high content of heat-producing elements in these rocks is attributed to fixing of U and Th in highly reduced sediments that were deposited in an anoxic basin that formed in the Silurian. When the basin was thickened during the Devonian Acadian orogeny, the thermal energy generated by the U- and Th-rich sediments produced the observed broad zone of high-grade rocks and anatectic granites. This hypothesis was tested with thermal calculations that reproduce most of the first-order thermal and baric patterns of the Acadian Appalachians, if pretectonic lateral variations in heat production are assumed.

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