Effects of permeability fields on fluid, heat, and oxygen isotope transport in extensional detachment systems



[1] Field studies of Cordilleran metamorphic core complexes indicate that meteoric fluids permeated the upper crust down to the detachment shear zone and interacted with highly deformed and recrystallized (mylonitic) rocks. The presence of fluids in the brittle/ductile transition zone is recorded in the oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope compositions of the mylonites and may play an important role in the thermomechanical evolution of the detachment shear zone. Geochemical data show that fluid flow in the brittle upper crust is primarily controlled by the large-scale fault-zone architecture. We conduct continuum-scale (i.e., large-scale, partial bounce-back) lattice-Boltzman fluid, heat, and oxygen isotope transport simulations of an idealized cross section of a metamorphic core complex. The simulations investigate the effects of crust and fault permeability fields as well as buoyancy-driven flow on two-way coupled fluid and heat transfer and resultant exchange of oxygen isotopes between meteoric fluid and rock. Results show that fluid migration to middle to lower crustal levels is fault controlled and depends primarily on the permeability contrast between the fault zone and the crustal rocks. High fault/crust permeability ratios lead to channelized flow in the fault and shear zones, while lower ratios allow leakage of the fluids from the fault into the crust. Buoyancy affects mainly flow patterns (more upward directed) and, to a lesser extent, temperature distributions (disturbance of the geothermal field by ~25°C). Channelized fluid flow in the shear zone leads to strong vertical and horizontal thermal gradients, comparable to field observations. The oxygen isotope results show δ18O depletion concentrated along the fault and shear zones, similar to field data.