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Granite magma formation, transport and emplacement in the Earth's crust

Abstract

The origin of granites was once a question solely for petrologists and geochemists. But in recent years a consensus has emerged that recognizes the essential role of deformation in the segregation, transport and emplacement of silica-rich melts in the continental crust. Accepted petrological models are being questioned, either because they require unrealistic rheological behaviours of rocks and magmas, or because they do not satisfactorily explain the available structural or geophysical data. Provided flow is continuous, mechanical considerations suggest that—far from being geologically sluggish—granite magmatism is a rapid, dynamic process operating at timescales of ≤100,000 years, irrespective of tectonic setting.

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Figure 1: Change in melt fraction (vol.%) as a function of temperature for a range of common crustal rock types undergoing fluid-absent melting (from ref. 9).
Figure 2: Melt viscosity as a function of melt water (wt%) content for typical tonalite and leucogranite liquid compositions (data from ref.15 and references therein) at a fixed pressure of 800 MPa.
Figure 3: Mean (vertical) thickness versus mean (horizontal) length for granitic plutons and laccoliths.
Figure 4: Estimated filling times for tabular disk-shaped plutons.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank M. Brown and A. Brandon for helpful reviews and J. Clemens and M. Atherton for useful discussions during the preparation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to N. Petford.

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Petford, N., Cruden, A., McCaffrey, K. et al. Granite magma formation, transport and emplacement in the Earth's crust . Nature 408, 669–673 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35047000

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