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Nature of orogenesis and volcanism in the Caucasus region based on results of regional tomography

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Author(s): I. Koulakov | I. Zabelina | I. Amanatashvili | V. Meskhia

Journal: Solid Earth Discussions
ISSN 1869-9537

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 641;
Date: 2012;
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ABSTRACT
In the paper we discuss the problem of continental collision and related volcanism in the Caucasus and surrounding areas based on analysis of the upper mantle seismic structure in a recently derived model by Koulakov (2011). This model, which includes P- and S-velocity anomalies down to 1000 km depth, was obtained from tomographic inversion of worldwide travel time data from the catalogue of the International Seismological Center. It can be seen that the Caucasus region is squeezed between two continental plates, Arabian to the south and European to the north, which are displayed in the tomographic model as high-velocity bodies down to about 200–250 km depth. On the contrary, a very bright low-velocity anomaly beneath the collision area implies that the lithosphere in this zone is very thin, which is also supported by strong deformations indicating weak properties of the lithosphere. In the contact between stable continental and collision zones we observe a rather complex alternation of seismic anomalies having the shapes of sinking drops. We propose that the convergence process causes crustal thickening and transformation of the lower crust material into the dense eclogite. When achieving a critical mass, the dense eclogitic drops trigger detachment of the mantle lithosphere and its delamination. The observed high-velocity bodies in the upper mantle may indicate the parts of the descending mantle lithosphere which were detached from the edges of the continental lithosphere plates. Very thin or even absent mantle part of the lithosphere leads to the presence of hot asthenosphere just below the crust. The crustal shortening and eclogitization of the lower crustal layer leads to the dominantly felsic composition of the crust which is favorable for the upward heat transport from the mantle. This, and also the factor of frictional heating, may cause to the origin of volcanic centers in the Caucasus and surrounding collisional areas.

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