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© 2009 Allan Ludman and Stephen Marshak W.W.

Norton & Company

CHAPTER 7
USING METAMORPHIC ROCKS TO INTERPRET EARTH HISTORY
PURPOSE • To become familiar with metamorphic rock textures and mineral assemblages • To use metamorphic rocks to interpret conditions in metamorphic environments. MATERIALS NEEDED • A set of metamorphic rocks. • A magnifying glass or hand lens and, ideally, a microscope and thin sections of metamorphic rocks. • Standard supplies for identifying minerals (streak plate, glass plate, etc.) 7.1 INTRODUCTION Metamorphism occurs within the Earth when rocks exposed to physical and chemical conditions significantly different from those under which they first formed change in response to the new conditions in the solid state without melting or disaggregating. Everything about a rock may change: its color, mineralogy, texture, even its chemical composition. Minerals may react with one another to produce new ones (in the solid state), the texture may change as grains become larger or smaller (in the solid state!), or both textural and mineralogy may change. Metamorphic rocks provide information about conditions between the surface and depths where melting takes place, filling a gap between the areas from which we get information from sedimentary and igneous rocks. Erosion of kilometers of overlying rock has revealed metamorphic rocks at the core of every continent and the cores of mountain systems. The stories that metamorphic rocks tell are fascinating – once we know how to read them. For example, metamorphic rocks help us understand
conditions when continental plates collide. Erosion has removed the upper parts of the Appalachians, Rockies, Alps, Urals, and other ancient mountain systems, revealing their intensely metamorphosed roots. Metamorphic minerals in these mountains help us estimate the T and P conditions beneath the modern Himalayas and Andes, mountains that are still growing today. the effect of enormous amounts of heat released when billions of tons of granitic magma formed the Sierra Nevada batholiths. Metamorphic changes near the granite contact help estimate conditions during intrusion and field mapping shows how far metamorphism extended into the host rock. Mapping also shows how far hydrothermal fluids carried potentially valuable mineral deposits from the cooling magma. the effects of meteorite impacts Studies of rocks around Meteor Crater in Arizona led geologists to recognize that meteorite impacts produce unique metamorphic minerals and textures. Supported by studies of

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The steam can dissolve ions or add new ions but a rock’s chemical composition changes in either case. and (3) the intensity of metamorphism.g. (2) how the agents of metamorphism were applied (e. pressure.1). Figure 7. intruding magma. whereas directed pressure flattens grains in one direction and elongates them in others (Figure 7. Increased lithostatic pressure compacts a mineral but doesn’t change its shape. Lithostatic pressure results from the burial of rocks within the Earth and. by an impacting meteorite. 7. Two kinds of pressure affect rocks differently. and depth to which the rock was subjected.2 Agents of Metamorphism Changes in the physical and chemical environment – heat.3 INTERPRETING METAMORPHIC HISTORY The nature of a metamorphic rock is controlled by (1) the parent rock that was metamorphosed. etc. amount and type of pressure. these help identify ancient meteorite impact sites on Earth where erosion has removed all signs of the original crater. Grain remains spherical but gets smaller The chemical environment is changed by hydrothermal fluids.). freeing ions to migrate to seeds of new minerals more stable at the new temperature. What was the original rock? What kind of metamorphism was 2 . 7. colliding plates. In differential stress (or directed pressure) pressure is greater in some directions than in others – as happens in the jaws of a vise or when two plates collide. like atmospheric pressure and hydrostatic pressure in the oceans. Lithostatic Pressure Pressure acts equally from all directions. and chemically active (hydrothermal) fluids – cause metamorphism and are called agents of metamorphism. Added heat breaks bonds in minerals. Geologists studying metamorphic rocks want to learn about all three factors. is equal in all directions. Directed Pressure Greater pressure in one direction than others Spherical grain is flattened a. including the temperature. generally superheated steam escaping from cooling magma or from deep-seated metamorphic reactions.rocks from lunar craters.1 Effects of lithostatic and directed pressures Surface Change with Progressive burial Deep Crust b.

involved? How hot did the rock get? How great was the pressure? How much did the rock change? As with igneous and sedimentary rocks. and potassium. and metamorphic minerals can therefore be used to interpret the composition of the original rock. Table 7. Add the mineral compositions from Table 3. silicon. 7. the clues lie in a metamorphic rock’s mineralogy and texture. Parent rock mineralogy controls to a great extent what metamorphic minerals can form. Minerals & Composition b. magnesium. Is it likely that any of these metamorphic rocks came from the same parent rock? Explain. mudstones): composed mostly of clay minerals rich in aluminum.3.1.1 Identifying The Parent Rock: Metamorphic Mineral Assemblages The minerals in a metamorphic rock are the most stable arrangement of ions under the new metamorphic conditions. Identify the minerals in the four metamorphic rocks provided by your instructor and record the data in the following table. based on chemical composition: Aluminous rocks (shales. iron.1 Estimating parent rock composition from metamorphic minerals Specimen 1 Specimen 2 Specimen 3 Specimen 4 c. what were the most abundant elements in the parent rock of each of these specimens? There are essentially four basic kinds of parent rock. oxygen. EXERCISE 7.1 METAMORPHIC MINERALS AS A KEY TO PARENT ROCK COMPOSITION a. 3 . Based on the minerals and their chemical compositions.

EXERCISE 7. magnesium. magnesium. grain size generally gets larger with increasing regional or contact metamorphism. in turn. gabbro): composed mostly of calcium. iron. but typically gets smaller with increasing dynamic metamorphism. potassium.1 with the information about the four chemical groups of metamorphic rock. aluminum. preserving some original textural features.2). and magnesium. The parent rock can be identified if metamorphism only changed a rock slightly. If quartz is present. For example. silicon.Calcareous rocks (limestones. with only minor iron. Quartzofeldspathic rocks (granite. arkose. and calcium. Mafic rocks (basalt. A combination of texture and field relationships allows us to interpret which type of metamorphism was involved. sodium. resulting in six types of metamorphism (Table 7. but it is not always possible to name the parent rock precisely. and oxygen with aluminum in the plagioclase feldspar. 7. both mafic. What types of parent rock produced the four specimens you studied? Specimen 1 Specimen 2 Specimen 3 Specimen 4 It is relatively easy to determine parent rock chemistry. If metamorphism was so intense that it erased all signs of the original texture. It is important to know which type was involved because correct estimates of metamorphic intensity depend on textural clues that. sandstone): composed mostly of silicon. dolostones): composed mostly of calcium. we can only deduce which of the four broad chemical groups the parent rock belonged to. silicon. metamorphosed granite and metamorphosed arkosic sandstone are both quartofeldspathic and could have identical metamorphic mineral assemblages. could have the same metamorphic minerals. Metamorphosed basalt and gabbro. for clay minerals add small amounts of aluminum. For example. carbon.2 Determining The Type Of Metamorphism: Metamorphic Mineral Alignment And Field Relationships Geologic processes apply the agents of metamorphism in different ways. add silicon and oxygen. magnesium. rhyolite. depend on how the rock was metamorphosed. 4 . oxygen.3. iron. and oxygen.2: IDENTIFYING THE PARENT MATERIAL OF A METAMORPHIC ROCK Compare the mineral contents and most abundant ions from the four rocks in Exercise 7.

Metamorphic rocks with randomly oriented platy or rod-like minerals did not experience directed pressure. changing their composition. the insulating effect of + some heat overlying material causes the buried rock to be heated Two large blocks of rock grind past one another in a fault Differential stress + zone. 7.2a).2a Metamorphic textures 1: Aligned vs randomly oriented grains Mineral alignment caused by differential stress can be either foliation or lineation (Figure 7. Elongate minerals like amphiboles show a different kind of foliation in which the long axes of the rod-like grains all lie within a single plane even though the individual rods may have any orientation within that plane 5 .3. Foliation is most effective with minerals like micas and chlorite. lithostatic and continent collision creates intense directed pressure. Lithosphere plates collide. therefore. * Rare. heat directed pressures comes from friction and position within the Earth Superheated steam released from cooling magma or from Chemically active metamorphic reactions carries dissolved ions to surrounding (hydrothermal) fluids rock. Metamorphic rocks with aligned platy and rod-shaped minerals must have experienced differential stress and. When a meteorite hits the Earth. Subduction or continentHeat. its kinetic energy Heat.2 shows that differential stress is an agent of regional and dynamic metamorphism but not of contact or burial metamorphism.2 Types of metamorphism Agent(s) of Metamorphism Heat How the agents of metamorphism are applied Type of Metamorphism Contact (thermal) Burial Heat from a cooling magma affects rocks adjacent to the intrusive body or lava flow Gravity causes increased lithostatic pressure as rocks are Lithostatic Pressure buried deeper in the Earth. either regional or dynamic metamorphism (Table 7.2). Will not be discussed further in this chapter Dynamic Regional Metasomatism Impact* Table 7. directed pressure is converted instantaneously to heat and directed pressure. You can demonstrate this by inserting plastic chips and pieces of coffee stirrers into PlayDoh at random orientations. Foliation is the parallel alignment of platy grains that gives some metamorphic rocks a sheetlike appearance. and typically produces a bright sheen when the parallel flakes reflect light simultaneously (Figure 7. The first step in determining the type of metamorphism is therefore to look for evidence that differential stress was (or was not) involved.Table 7. and therefore underwent contact or burial metamorphism. heat some heat comes from friction and position in the Earth. Moving blocks generate the directed pressure. The clue is that differential stress causes elongate and platy minerals to be aligned in metamorphic rocks. Apply differential stress by flattening the PlayDoh with a book and the randomly oriented “metamorphic minerals” become aligned.2). Coarse-grained foliated rocks are called schists and this kind of foliation is commonly referred to as schistosity.

Metamorphic rocks without aligned minerals have a granoblastic texture (Figure 7.g. b. Granoblastic rocks lack alignment because either they were not affected by directed pressure.2b). producing a sheen. or they don’t have platy or rod-shaped minerals that could be aligned. Foliation defined by alignment of the long axes of rod-shaped minerals (e.2c). Lineation: Rod-shaped minerals are aligned parallel to one another. indicate contact or burial metamorphism is indicated because the grains would have been aligned by differential stress in the other types of metamorphism. As a result. but their long axes all lie in the same plane—the plane of foliation c. The rods are not parallel to one another. Lineation occurs when the long axes of individual rod-shaped mineral grains are aligned parallel to one another (Figure 7. they reflect light at the same time. If a granoblastic texture involves equidimensional grains. Muscovite flakes are aligned parallel to one another like pages in a book.(Figure 7. producing a streaky appearance on some surfaces and a dotted pattern on others. Without minerals that could be foliated or lineated. we can’t be sure of the type of metamorphism. amphibole). they might or might not have experienced differential stress during metamorphism.3). 6 .2 Mineral alignment: Foliation and lineation Plane of Foliation a. Foliation of sheet-like grains (micas) in an aluminous schist. Platy or rod-like minerals with a granoblastic texture. Figure 7.

a limestone. or a shale. whether the original rock was a granite with angular crystals.4b) and then smeared into elongate streaks with ovoid remnants of the original crystals (Figure 7.4 shows how a coarse-grained granite changed with progressively more intense dynamic metamorphism in a 380 Ma fault zone. Photomicrograph showing interlocking quartz grains in quartzite 7. 1 mm .3.4c).2b Metamorphic textures #2: Recognizing the effects of dynamic metamorphism Figure 7. Interlocking quartz grains in quartzite d. Photomicrograph showing interlocking calcite grains in a different marble. a coarse conglomerate with rounded clasts. Interlocking calcite. Initially angular potassic feldspar grains were stretched (Figure 7.3 Granoblastic texture (No preferred mineral alignment) 1 cm 5 cm a. 7 . The appearance of having been smeared is characteristic of rocks that experienced dynamic metamorphism.Figure 7. garnet (brown) and pyroxene (dark green) in coarse-grained marble 1 cm b.

3 MINERAL ALIGNMENT AND TYPE OF METAMORPHISM a. High-grade dynamic metamorphism: granitic mylonite in which grain size of the original granite has been reduced to form a dark. east-central Maine) a.Figure 7. quartz grains (gray) have coalesced to form continuous ribbons c. Summarize the relationship between mineral alignment and type of metamorphism. by checking the appropriate box(es) in each row in the following table: Texture Foliation Lineation Granoblastic with micas Granoblastic without micas Layered but not foliated Regional Metamorphism Contact Metamorphism Can’t tell from just the texture alone 8 .4 Effects of dynamic metamorphism on the texture of a coarse-grained granite (from the Norumbega fault system. Unfaulted granite showing original coarse-grained igneous texture b. very fine-grained matrix with remnant feldspars smeared into ovoid grains EXERCISE 7. Low-grade dynamic metamorphism: Potassic feldspars(pink) are stretched and aligned parallel to the pen.

For example. The longer the rock remains at its peak metamorphic temperature. and preserve much of the character of their parent rocks. 9 . granoblastic metamorphic rocks adjacent to an igneous intrusion almost certainly resulted from contact metamorphism. it is distributed over broad areas where two plates collided. Texture and mineralogy combine to help interpret the intensity of metamorphism.2c Field relationships Field relationships provide evidence about the type of metamorphism that can not be gotten from a sample in a laboratory. Examine the metamorphic rocks in your study set.3 Determining Metamorphic Intensity: Mineralogy and Texture Metamorphic grade describes the intensity of metamorphism and the degree to which it has changed. and high grade rocks have changed so much that no traces of the parent rock remain other than overall chemical composition. 7. have changed little. 7. Which are foliated? Lineated? Granoblastic? Answer in the appropriate column of the metamorphic rock study sheets at the end of this chapter What can you infer about the type of metamorphism that produced each sample? 7. Figure 7.Layered and foliated b.3. The presence of meteorite craters and linear fault zones makes it easy to recognize the impact and dynamic metamorphism involved in their formation. Moderate grade rocks retain fewer aspects of their parent rocks. episodes of regional metamorphism affected the entire Appalachian Mountain system from Newfoundland to Alabama during successive collisions that built what is now eastern North America.3.5 shows some fine-grained parent rocks. and contact metamorphism. burial. Regional metamorphism is aptly named. grain size generally increases with increasing metamorphism during regional. For example. the more solid-state ionic migration can occur and the larger the metamorphic minerals can grow. Low grade rocks experienced low metamorphic intensity.3a Textural evidence for metamorphic intensity Grain size: As mentioned earlier.3. Compare these with their high-grade metamorphic equivalents as indicated to realize how much texture can change.

5 cm a. Unless the rock has been completely recrystallized to the finer grain size. Individual grains in the most intensely 10 . The more flattened and elongated the grains are.4c). a few larger grains will remain among the finer ones and their shapes will reveal the type of metamorphism (Figure 7. there were only a few crystal seeds for the porphyroblast minerals and these swept up all the appropriate ions. Hand specimen of micritic limestone Compare with metamorphic equivalent in Figure 7. In Figure 7. Hand sample of mudstone. nearly perfectly shaped garnet porphyroblasts grew in a foliated. Remember that intense dynamic metamorphism makes grains smaller. medium-grained aluminous rock made up mostly of finer grained muscovite flakes.3b c.5 mm b. the higher the grade of dynamic metamorphism. compare with metamorphic equivalent (Figure 7.2a) Porphyroblastic texture is the metamorphic equivalent of the igneous porphyritic texture – some grains (porphyroblasts)are larger than the others (Figure 7.3a 0. large. This does not mean that the metamorphic rock cooled at different rates as would be the case for an igneous rock.6). Grain shape: You saw earlier that flattening and smearing occur in dynamic metamorphism.5 Fine-grained parent rocks of common metamorphic rocks 2. Photomicrograph of micritic limestone Compare with metamorphic equivalent in Figure 7.Figure 7. Rather.6.

.6 Porphyroblastic texture 2. minerals in one of the types of layers are foliated and those in the other are granoblastic.g. As metamorphic temperatures and pressures change.5 cm Garnet porphyroblasts Gneissic texture — mineral segregation and layering: Chemical segregation may occur at very high metamorphic grades. This combination of layering and foliation is called a gneissic texture and rocks exhibiting it are called gneisses (Figure 7. biotite).recrystallized dynamically metamorphosed rocks are so small they cannot even be seen with a microscope and some rocks look like volcanic glass. sillimanite). 7. Figure 7.2). In most cases. Gneisses represent the highest grade of regional metamorphism in many areas. Mineral indicators of the intensity of metamorphism are called metamorphic index minerals (Table 7.g. Each compositional type has its own set of index minerals but that some minerals such as chlorite.and darkcolored layers containing different minerals. biotite.3b Mineral evidence for intensity of metamorphism Some minerals are stable only at relatively low temperature and pressure conditions (e. others at moderate metamorphic conditions (e. and still others at intense conditions (e. and 11 .7). chlorite).. during which previously homogeneous rocks separate into light. these minerals become unstable and their ions combine with others to form minerals better suited for the new conditions.g.3.

Some minerals. Epidote Actinolite Na-Ca Plag. Figure 7.feldspar Fe-Mg Garnet Fe-Mg Garnet Fe-Mg garnet Staurolite Kyanite or Sillimanite Calcite Calcareous Talc Calcite Tremolite Olivine Calcite Diopside Ca-Al garnet Hornblende Ca-Na Plag Fe-Mg Garnet Diopside Wollastonite Ca-Al Garnet Pyroxene Ca Plag Fe-Mg Garnet Chlorite Mafic Na-Plag.and Na-feldspars Dark Layers: biotite b. Ca-Na Plagioclase feldspar Pyroxenes Table 7. Calc-silicate gneiss Wollastonite (CaSiO3) Ca-Al garnet.5 cm a. 12 . The complete assemblage of minerals.0 cm 10 cm 2.garnet.2 Mineral assemblages as indicators of metamorphic intensity Parent Rock Type Increasing Metamorphic Intensity Low grade Medium grade High grade Impossible to determine based on mineralogy alone Quartzofeldspathic Muscovite Muscovite Aluminous Chlorite Muscovite Biotite Biotite Muscovite Biotite Sillimanite K. including quartz. Quartzofeldspathic gneiss K. can occur in more than one type. are stable over a wide range of metamorphic conditions. they are not helpful in determining conditions of metamorphism even though they are important constituents of metamorphic rocks. Mafic gneissLight layers: quartz. makes it clear what the parent rock type was. As a result. pyroxene c. however.7 Gneissic texture 2. potassic and plagioclase feldspars.

there are a few possibilities. green. Phyllite A slightly more intensely metamorphosed shale or mudstone (or slate) composed largely of foliated flakes of muscovite ± chlorite ± biotite. smeared Gneiss Calc-silicate gneiss Mafic gneiss Gneiss Protomylonite Mylonite Ultramylonite Increasing metamorphic intensity and smaller grain size Marble Granofels (Calc-silicate granofels) Greenstone Mafic granofels Quartzite Quartzofeldspathic granofels Hornfels. first identify the minerals in a metamorphic rock to determine the compositional type (refer to Table 7. but not quite the same way as for igneous or sedimentary rocks. red. Table 7.7. Check the following brief descriptions to make the correct identification. To use it. In some cases there will be only one choice and you’ve named the rock.4 METAMORPHIC ROCK CLASSIFICATION Metamorphic rock classification is based on a combination of mineralogy and texture.3 is a simplified classification scheme for most common metamorphic rocks. Grains are larger than those in slate but may still 13 .3 Simplified classification scheme for metamorphic rocks Texture Composition Aluminous Slate Calcareous Mafic Greenschist Quartzofeldspathic Increasing intensity and grain size Phyllite Calcareous Schist Hornblende Schist Foliated Schist Amphibolite Foliated and Layered Foliated. and place the rock in the correct column in Table 7. Table 7. Move downward through the table until you come to the row with the appropriate texture. The foliation is revealed by slate’s tendency to split into thin slabs parallel to the foliation. if definitely the result of contact metamorphism Non-foliated Slate A low-grade metamorphosed shale or mudstone composed largely of foliated flakes of muscovite too small to be seen with the naked eye. In others.3. layered. black. Commonly gray.2).

4: INTERPRETING METAMORPHIC ROCK HISTORY Examine the specimens of metamorphic rock and determine as much as possible about the history of each. the geologist has found no igneous rock anywhere in the region. the rock may be an aluminous schist (micas.5: GEOLOBIC REASONING: A METAMORPHIC ENIGMA You have just developed a new set of skills that will enable you to look at metamorphic rocks in the field or laboratory and squeeze as much information as possible from them about their history. Ca-amphiboles) Gneiss A high-grade metamorphic rock of any composition in which minerals have segregated into light and dark layers. Mylonite Dynamically metamorphosed rock. with the coarsest grains found in the central region. Now you’re ready for a little detective work and geological reasoning Figure 7. Hornblende schist (aka amphibolite) A higher-grade version of greenschist. hornblende). chlorite).8 is a map showing the distribution of rocks of different metamorphic intensities. or a calcareous schist (Ca-micas. EXERCISE 7. surrounded by rocks of progressively lower grade.be too small to be seen without magnification. in which foliated and often lineated hornblende crystals replace the lower-grade chlorite-epidote-actinolite assemblage. talc. All metamorphic rocks have a granoblastic texture. a mafic schist (chlorite. Schist A more intensely metamorphosed rock with a strong foliation defined by mica or other platy minerals large enough to be identified with the naked eye. 14 . Porphyroblasts of other metamorphic minerals may be present. Quartzite A monomineralic granoblastic metamorphic rock composed of quartz Marble A granoblastic calcareous metamorphic rock composed mostly of calcite or dolomite. one of which is foliated. Greenstone A non-foliated equivalent of greenschist. May also contain some of the calcareous index minerals. Granofels Any metamorphic rock in which mineral grains are randomly oriented Greenschist A low-grade mafic metamorphic rock composed of chlorite and plagioclase feldspar with epidote ± actinolite. Fill in your observations and conclusions in the metamorphic rock study sheets at the end of the chapter. The local geologist has mapped a concentric pattern in which the highest metamorphic grade is in the center of the area. Foliation is defined by alignment of chlorite and actinolite. Note: Depending on what the foliated minerals are. EXERCISE 7. Although the granoblastic texture suggests contact metamorphism. Foliation is revealed by the sheen resulting from reflection of light from the aligned platy minerals. foliation defined by flattened and stretched grains.

Suggest an explanation for this metamorphic pattern based on your knowledge of metamorphism and metamorphic rocks.8 Mapped distribution of rocks with varying metamorphic intensity 0 5 10 15 km Unmetamorphosed Low grade Moderate grade High grade 15 . Figure 7.

NAME______________________________ Metamorphic Rock Study Sheet Textural Features Metamorphism Intensity Type of Metamorphic Name Sample Minerals present # (compositional group) 16 .

NAME______________________________ Metamorphic Rock Study Sheet Textural Features Metamorphism Intensity Type of Metamorphic Name Sample Minerals present # (compositional group) 17 .