Shear heating and solid state diffusion: Constraints from clumped isotope thermometry in carbonate faults
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Natural faults are expected to heat rapidly during seismic slip and to cool quite quickly after the event. Here we examine clumped isotope thermometry for its ability to identify short duration elevated temperature events along frictionally heated carbonate faults. This method is based on measured Δ47 values that indicate the relative atomic order of oxygen and carbon stable isotopes in the calcite lattice, which is affected by heat and thus can serve as a thermometer. We examine three types of calcite rock samples: (1) samples that were rapidly heated and then cooled in static laboratory experiments, simulating the temperature cycle experienced by fault rock during earthquake slip; (2) limestone samples that were experimentally sheared to simulate earthquake slip events; and (3) samples taken from principle slip zones of natural carbonate faults that likely experienced earthquake slip. Experimental results show that Δ47 values decrease rapidly (in the course of seconds) and systematically both with increasing temperature and shear velocity. On the other hand, carbonate shear zone from natural faults do not show such Δ47 reduction. We propose that the experimental Δ47 response is controlled by the presence of high-stressed nano-grains within the fault zone that can reduce the activation energy for diffusion by up to 60%, and thus lead to an increased rate of solid-state diffusion in the experiments. However, the lowering of activation energy is a double-edged sword in terms of clumped isotopes: In laboratory experiments, it allows for rapid disordering so that isotopic signal appears after very short heating, but in natural faults it also leads to relatively fast isotopic re-ordering after the cessation of frictional heating, thus erasing the high temperature signature in Δ47 values within relatively short geological times (<1 Ma).