Earth's earliest continental lithosphere, hydrothermal flux and crustal recycling

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doi: 10.1016/0024-4937(93)90043-C
Authors:de Wit, Maarten J.; Hart, Roger A.
Author Affiliations:Primary:
University of Cape Town, Department of Geological Sciences, Rondebosch, South Africa
Other:
University of Tokyo at Komaba, Japan
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Volume Title:evolving Earth
Volume Authors:Campbell, Ian H., editor; Maruyama, Shigenori; McCulloch, Malcolm T.
Source:Lithos (Oslo), 30(3-4), p.309-335; The evolving Earth, Okazaki, Japan, Aug. 20-23, 1992, edited by Ian H. Campbell, Shigenori Maruyama and Malcolm T. McCulloch. Publisher: Elsevier, Amsterdam, International. ISSN: 0024-4937
Publication Date:1993
Note:In English. 150 refs.; illus. incl. 3 tables, geol. sketch maps
Summary:The Kaapvaal craton in southern Africa and the Pilbara craton of northwestern Australia are the largest regions on Earth to have retained relatively pristine mid-Archaean rocks (3.0-4.0 Ga). The Kaapvaal craton covers about 1.2×106 km2, and varies in lithospheric thickness between 170 and 350 km. At surface, the craton can be subdivided into a number of Archaean sub-domains; some of the subdomains are also well defined at depth, and local variations in tomography of the lithosphere correspond closely with subdomain boundaries at surface. The Archaean history of the Kaapvaal craton spans about 1 Gyr and can be conveniently subdivided into two periods, each of about the same length as the Phanerozoic. The first period, from circa 3.7-3.1 Ga, records the initial separation of the cratonic lithosphere from the asthenosphere, terminating with a major pulse of accretion tectonics between 3.2 and 3.1 Ga, which includes the formation of "paired metamorphic belts". This period of continental growth can be compared to plate tectonic processes occurring in modern-day oceanic basins. However, the difference is that in the mid-Archaean, these oceanic processes appear to have occurred in shallower water depths than the modern ocean basins. The second period, from circa 3.1-2.6 Ga, records intra-continental and continental-edge processes: continental growth during this period occurred predominantly through a combination of tectonic accretion of crustal fragments and subduction-related igneous processes, in much the same way as has been documented along the margins of the Pacific and Tethys oceans since the Mesozoic. The intra-oceanic processes resulted in small, but deep-rooted continental nucleii; the first separation of this early continental lithosphere could only have occurred when the mean elevation of mid-oceanic-ridges sank below sea-level. Substantial recycling of continental lithosphere into the mantle must have occurred during this period of Earth history. During the second period, at least two large continental nucleii amalgamated during collisional processes which, together with internal chemical differentiation processes, created the first stable continental landmass. This landmass, which is known to have been substantially bigger than its present outline, may have been part of the Earth's first supercontinent. The oldest known subdomains of the craton include the oceanic-like rocks of the Barberton greenstone belt. The comagmatic mafic-ultramafic rocks (3.48-3.49 Ga) of this belt represent a remnant of very early oceanic-like lithosphere (known as the Jamestown Ophiolite Complex), which was obducted, approximately 45 Ma after its formation, onto a volcanic arc-like terrain by processes similar to those which have emplaced modern ophiolites at convergent margins of Phanerozoic continents. The early metamorphic history, metamorphic mineralogy, oxygen isotope profiles and degree of hydration of the 3.49 Ga Jamestown Ophiolite Complex are similar to present day subseafloor hydrothermal systems. The ratio of ΔMg to ΔSi for hydrothermally altered igneous rocks, both present day and Archaean, are remarkably uniform at -5(±0.9) and the same as that of hydrothermal fluids venting on the present-day East Pacific Rise. This observation suggests that the process of Mg exchange for Si in hydrothermal systems was commonplace throughout Earth's history. The chemistry of vent fluids and hydrothermally altered igneous rocks was combined with an inventory of 3He in the mantle to model Earth's total hydrothermal flux. An Archaean flux (at 3.5 Ga) of about 10 times present day was accompanied by a correspondingly greater abundance of Mg(OH), SiO2, carbonate and Fe-Mn metasomatic rock types as well as massive sulphides. Assuming a constant column of seawater since the Archaean, the average residence time of seawater in the oceanic crust was 1.65-8.90×105 years in the Archaean. Assuming that 3He and heat are transported from the mantle in silicate melts in uniform proportions, the model stipulates that accretion of oceanic crust decreased from about 3.43-6.5×1017 g/yr to a present-day rate of 0.52-0.8×1017 g/yr, with a drop in heat flow from 1.4-2.6×1020 cal/yr to 2.1-3.2×1019 cal/year. The total amounts of SiO2 and Fe mobilised in marine hydrothermal systems since 3.5 Ga is less than their masses in the present exosphere reservoirs (crust, hydrosphere, atmosphere). The total amounts of Mg, K, CO2, Ca and Mn are greater than their respective masses in exosphere reservoirs; therefore, they must have been recycled into mantle. The total mass of recycled hydrothermal components is small compared to the mass of the mantle. The flux of volatiles in hydrothermal systems is large compared to their volume in the atmosphere suggesting that the CO2 and O2 budgets of the atmosphere have been influenced by hydrothermal processes, especially in the Archaean.
Subjects:Accreting plate boundary; Archean; Continental crust; Cratons; Crust; Differentiation; Heat flow; Hydrothermal conditions; Lithosphere; Plate tectonics; Precambrian; Recycling; Thermal waters; Africa; Barberton greenstone belt; Kaapvaal Craton; South Africa; Southern Africa; Evolution
Abstract Numbers:95M/510
Record ID:1993046644
Copyright Information:GeoRef, Copyright 2019 American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from CAPCAS, Elsevier Scientific Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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