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Published January 1969 | public
Journal Article

Oxygen and hydrogen isotope studies of contact metamorphism in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada and other areas


The O18/O16 and D/H ratios have been determined for rocks and coexisting minerals from several granitic plutons and their contact metamorphic aureoles in the Santa Rosa Range, Nevada, and the Eldora area, Colorado, with emphasis on pelitic rocks. A consistent order of O18/O16 and D/H enrichment in coexisting minerals, and a correlation between isotopic fractionations among coexisting mineral pairs are commonly observed, suggesting that mineral assemblages tend to approach isotopic equilibrium during contact metamorphism. In certain cases, a systematic decrease is observed in the oxygen isotopic fractionations of mineral pairs as one approaches the intrusive contacts. Isotopic temperatures generally show good agreement with heat flow considerations. Based on the experimentally determined quartz-muscovite O18/O16 fractionation calibration curve, temperatures are estimated to be 525 to 625° C at the contacts of the granitic stocks studied. Small-scale oxygen isotope exchange effects between intrusive and country rock are observed over distances of 0.5 to 3 feet on both sides of the contacts; the isotopic gradients are typically 2 to 3 per mil per foot. The degree of oxygen isotopic exchange is essentially identical for different coexisting minerals. This presumably occurred through a diffusion-controlled recrystallization process. The size of the oxygen isotope equilibrium system in the small-scale exchanged zones varies from about 1.5 to 30 cm. A xenolith and a re-entrant of country rock projecting into an intrusive have both undergone much more extensive isotopic exchange (to hundreds of feet); they also show higher isotopic temperatures than the rocks in the aureole. The marginal portions of most plutons have unusually high O18/O16 ratios compared to "normal" igneous rocks, presumably due to large-scale isotopic exchange with metasedimentary country rocks when the igneous rocks were essentially in a molten state. The isotopic data suggest that outward horizontal movement of H2O into the contact metamorphic aureoles is very minor, but upward movement of H2O is important. Also, direct influx and absorption of H2O from the country rock appears to have occurred in certain intrusive stocks. The D/H ratios of biotites in the contact metamorphic rocks and their associated intrusions show a geographic correlation that is similar to that shown by the D/H ratios of meteoric surface waters, perhaps indicating that meteoric waters were present in the rocks during crystallization of the biotites. Except in the exchanged zones, the O18/O16 ratios of pelitic rocks do not change appreciably during contact metamorphism, even in the cordierite and sillimanite grades; this is in contrast to regional metamorphic rocks which commonly decrease in O18 with increasing grade. Thus, contact metamorphic rocks generally do not exchange with large quantities of "igneous" H2O, but regional metamorphic rocks appear to have done so.

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