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Up the down escalator: the exhumation of (ultra)-high pressure terranes during on-going subduction

Author(s): C. J. Warren

Journal: Solid Earth Discussions
ISSN 1869-9537

Volume: 4;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 745;
Date: 2012;
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The exhumation of high and ultra-high pressure rocks is ubiquitous in Phanerozoic orogens created during continental collisions, and is common in many ocean-ocean and ocean-continent subduction zone environments. Three different tectonic environments have previously been reported, which exhume deeply buried material by different mechanisms and at different rates. However it is becoming increasingly clear that no single mechanism dominates in any particular tectonic environment, and the mechanism may change in time and space within the same subduction zone. In order for buoyant continental crust to subduct, it must remain attached to a stronger and denser substrate, but in order to exhume, it must detach (and therefore at least locally weaken) and be initially buoyant. Denser oceanic crust subducts more readily than more buoyant continental crust but exhumation must be assisted by entrainment within more buoyant and weak material such as serpentinite or driven by the exhumation of structurally lower continental crustal material. Weakening mechanisms responsible for the detachment of crust at depth include strain, hydration, melting, grain size reduction and the development of foliation. These may act locally or may act on the bulk of the subducted material. Metamorphic reactions, metastability and the composition of the subducted crust all affect buoyancy and overall strength. Subduction zones change in style both in time and space, and exhumation mechanisms change to reflect the tectonic style and overall force regime within the subduction zone. Exhumation events may be transient and occur only once in a particular subduction zone or orogen, or may be more continuous or occur multiple times.
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