Strain rates and constraints on chemical homogeneity and length scales of equilibration during Alpine metamorphism at Passo del Sole, Central Swiss Alps

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Berg, Christopher Andrew, 1975-

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Garnet-bearing gneisses from the vicinity of Passo del Sole, Central Swiss Alps, have undergone a complex history of metamorphism and deformation that has imbued them with unique compositional and textural variations. Complex, concentric zoning patterns in garnet may be correlated between porphyroblasts on the scale of a hand sample; however, the character of the Ca, Mn, and Y zoning patterns in garnet vary within single layers on the meter-scale. Within a hand sample, individual compositional zones can be correlated from crystal to crystal on the basis of chemical similarities (e.g., intricate yet identical variations in calcium concentration; equivalent manganese concentrations at zone boundaries) and textural similarities (e.g., initiation of inclusiontrail curvature). These relationships allow the identification of individual compositional zones as time markers during garnet growth. Detailed examination of garnet growth zoning patterns, in combination with measurements of inclusion-trail curvature within garnet porphyroblasts and detailed thermodynamic models of the garnet growth history in selected samples, together with an assumed heating rate associated with Alpine metamorphism, allows quantification of strain-rates during prograde amphibolite-facies metamorphism along the northern margin of the Lucomagno nappe. Constraints on the nucleation and timing of garnet growth and garnet growth rate mechanisms permit further insight into the relationship between strainrate and metamorphism at Passo del Sole than had previously been possible with this method: variations in strain-rate magnitude of over a factor of ten (10⁻¹⁴ - 10⁻¹³ s⁻¹) are observed, which correlate with core-to-rim changes in compositional zoning. The source of the incredible diversity of compositional zoning patterns in garnet is hypothesized to be open-system infiltration of ephemeral, channelized Ca- or Mn-rich fluids derived from magmatic sources or equilibrated with metamorphic rocks deeper in the section. Stages of garnet growth associated with increased strain rates are also correlated with the high-Ca or high-Mn zones within the garnet porphyroblasts, presumably as the result of strain softening associated with the passage of these fluids. In-situ oxygen isotope analysis using SIMS demonstrates that the changes in majorelement zoning patterns correlate with small shifts in the isotopic composition of garnet.