Ion microprobe evidence for the mechanisms of stable isotope retrogression in high-grade metamorphic rocks

  • J. M. Eiler
  • J. W. Valley
  • C. M. Graham
  • L. P. Baumgartner


Retrograde interdiffusion is widely proposed as the dominant factor in producing the stable isotopic fractionation among minerals in slowly cooled igneous and metamorphic rocks. Mineral zonation consistent with interdiffusion of stable isotopes has never been directly observed, however, leaving doubt as to the mechanism responsible for the bulk-mineral isotopic compositions commonly measured. Ion microprobe analyses of oxygen isotope ratios in magnetite were combined with conventional bulk mineral analyses and diffusion modeling to document the relationship between mineral zonation and the mechanism of retrogression inferred from bulk mineral data. Two samples of magnetitebearing, quartzo-feldspathic Lyon Mountain gneiss from the Adirondack mountains, N.Y. were studied in detail. Conventional stable isotope analysis of both samples indicates that isotope thermometers are discordant and were reset by as much as 200°C from the estimated peak temperature of 750°C. The relative order of apparent temperatures recorded by various thermometers differs between the two samples, however, with Tqtz-fspTmt-qtz and Tmt-fsp in one sample and Tqtz-fsp<Tmt-qtz and Tmt-fsp in the other. Diffusion modeling using the Fast Grain Boundary model shows that the former pattern of apparent temperatures is consistent with closed system interdiffusion during cooling, whereas the latter is not. The modeling predicts that 0.5 mm diameter magnetite grains common to this rock type will contain isotopic zonation of 1‰ (rims lower in δ18O than cores), and that the cores of smaller (0.1 mm) grains will be similarly lower than to the cores of large (0.5 mm) grains. Ion microprobe analysis reveals that the zoning patterns of magnetite grains from the first sample contain clear core to rim zonation in multiple grains (Δcore-rim=1.1±0.4‰) and predicted grain-size vs core composition variations, consistent with diffusion-controlled resetting of bulk mineral fractionations. In contrast, the second sample shows irregular inter-and intra-granular variations over an 8‰ range, consistent with open system alteration. These results provide direct documentation of the importance of interdiffusion in affecting stable isotope distributions in slowly cooled rocks. The correlations of bulk-mineral resetting with zonation show that bulk mineral data, when interpreted with detailed modeling, can be used to determinate what processes controlling retrogression.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Eiler
    • 1
  • J. W. Valley
    • 1
  • C. M. Graham
    • 2
  • L. P. Baumgartner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK

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