EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Pressure variations in the Monte Rosa nappe: new results from staurolite bearing metapelites

Joshua David Vaughan-Hammon1, Cindy Luisier2, Stefan Schmalholz1, and Lukas Baumgartner1
Joshua David Vaughan-Hammon et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne 1015, Switzerland
  • 2Université de Rennes, 263 Avenue Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes, France

Pressure recorded in metamorphic rocks is typically assumed to represent a hydrostatic stress and thus depends linearly on depth. Recently, work in the Monte Rosa nappe in the western Alps has challenged this lithostatic assumption. Observable pressure differences of 0.8 ± 0.3 GPa between chloritoid, talc, and phengite-bearing lithologies (locally known as ‘whiteschists’) at ca. 2.2 - 2.5 GPa, and metagranite lithologies at 1.4 – 1.6 GPa have been recorded. These pressure variations, rather than being attributed to variable rock kinetics, partial retrogression, or tectonic mixing, have been interpreted to be mechanically induced. As part of this ongoing investigation, we will present work undertaken on newly discovered staurolite-chloritoid bearing metapelites belonging to the Monte Rosa basement, in order to constrain the peak pressure and temperature conditions during burial within the Alpine orogeny and the resulting tectono-metamorphic and geodynamic implications.

Metapelitic samples from the Monte Rosa basement show a rich polymetamorphic history from high-T Variscan garnet growth through to high-P Alpine equilibration and decompression. Extensive phase petrology calculations have been undertaken on staurolite + chloritoid + phengite + paragonite assemblages, as well as garnet + chlorite + phengite + paragonite assemblages, representing equilibration at peak Alpine conditions. Various mixing models were employed due to non-negligible amounts of ZnO recorded in staurolite (~5% wt% and ~1 a.p.f.u) and the lack of available solution models. These result in peak Alpine conditions of 1.6 ± 0.2 GPa and 580 ± 15 ºC. These findings confirm the presence of significant disparities in pressure of 0.6 ± 0.2 GPa within the coherent Monte Rosa nappe.

Vital for the reconstruction and tectonic history for the western Alps is the maximum burial depth of units involved. We argue that the maximum burial depth of the Monte Rosa unit was significantly less than 80 km (based on the lithostatic pressure assumption and minor volumes of whiteschist at > 2.2 GPa). Rather, the maximum burial depth of the Monte Rosa unit was presumably equal or less than ca. 60 km, estimated from pressures of 1.4 - 1.6 GPs recorded frequently in metagranite and metapelitic lithologies. This depth is compatible with burial and exhumation within an orogenic wedge, rather than a complex exhumation mechanism such as within a weak and long subduction channel. Equally, the relatively slower exhumation rates from shallower crustal depths fit more reasonable tectonic velocities.

How to cite: Vaughan-Hammon, J. D., Luisier, C., Schmalholz, S., and Baumgartner, L.: Pressure variations in the Monte Rosa nappe: new results from staurolite bearing metapelites, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8284,, 2020


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