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High stress deformation and short-term thermal pulse preserved in exhumed lower crustal seismogenic faults (Lofoten, Norway)
  • Lucy Campbell,
  • Luca Menegon
Lucy Campbell
University of Hull

Corresponding Author:l.r.campbell@hull.ac.uk

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Luca Menegon
University of Oslo
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Seismic rupture in strong, anhydrous lithologies of the lower continental crust requires high failure stress, in the absence of high pore fluid pressure. Several mechanisms proposed to generate high stresses at depth imply transient loading driven by a spectrum of stress changes, ranging from highly localised stress amplifications to crustal-scale stress transfers. High transient stresses up to GPa magnitude are proposed by field and modelling studies, but the evidence for transient pre-seismic stress loading is often difficult to extract from the geological record due to overprinting by coseismic damage and slip. However, the local preservation of deformation microstructures indicative of crystal-plastic and brittle deformation associated with the seismic cycle in the lower crust offers the opportunity to constrain the progression of deformation before, during and after rupture, including stress and temperature evolution. Here, detailed study of pyroxene microstructures characterises the short-term evolution of high stress deformation and temperature changes experienced prior to, and during, lower crustal earthquake rupture. Pyroxenes are sampled from pseudotachylyte-bearing faults and damage zones of lower crustal earthquakes recorded in the exhumed granulite facies terrane of Lofoten, northern Norway. The progressive sequence of microstructures indicates localised high-stress (at the GPa level) preseismic loading accommodated by low temperature plasticity, followed by coseismic pulverisation-style fragmentation and subsequent grain growth triggered by the short-term heat pulse associated with frictional sliding. Thus, up to GPa-level transient high stress leading to earthquake nucleation in the dry lower crust can occur in nature, and can be preserved in the fault rock microstructure.