Seismic velocities, anisotropy, and shear-wave splitting of antigorite serpentinites and tectonic implications for subduction zones

Authors

  • Shaocheng Ji,

    Corresponding author
    1. Département des Génies Civil, Géologique et des Mines, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
    • Corresponding author: S. Ji, Département des Génies Civil, Géologique et des Mines, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3A7, Canada. (sji@polymtl.ca), C. Long, Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China. (cxlong@hotmail.com)

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  • Awei Li,

    1. Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Qian Wang,

    1. State Key Laboratory of Isotope Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
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  • Changxing Long,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing, China
    • Corresponding author: S. Ji, Département des Génies Civil, Géologique et des Mines, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3A7, Canada. (sji@polymtl.ca), C. Long, Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing 100081, China. (cxlong@hotmail.com)

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  • Hongcai Wang,

    1. Institute of Geomechanics, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Denis Marcotte,

    1. Département des Génies Civil, Géologique et des Mines, École Polytechnique de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
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  • Matthew Salisbury

    1. Geological Survey of Canada-Atlantic, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
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Abstract

[1] Antigorite, the high-temperature (HT) form of serpentinite, is believed to play a critical role in various geological processes of subduction zones. We have measured P- and S-wave velocities (Vp and Vs), anisotropy and shear-wave splitting of 17 serpentinite samples containing >90% antigorite at pressures up to 650 MPa. The new results, combined with data for low-temperature (LT) lizardite and/or chrysolite, reveal distinct effects of LT and HT serpentinization on the seismic properties of mantle rocks. At 600 MPa, Vp = 5.10 and 6.68 km/s, Vs = 2.32 and 3.67 km/s, and Vp/Vs = 2.15 and 1.81 for pure LT and HT serpentinites, respectively. Above the crack-closure pressure (~150 MPa), the velocity ratio of antigorite serpentinites displays little dependence on pressure or temperature. Serpentine contents within subduction zones and forearc mantle wedges where temperature is >300°C should be at least twice that of previous estimates based on LT serpentinization. The presence of seismic anisotropy, high-pressure fluids, or partial melt is also needed to interpret HT serpentinized mantle with Vp < 6.68 km/s, Vs < 3.67 km/s, and Vp/Vs > 1.81. The intrinsic anisotropy of the serpentinites (3.8–16.9% with an average value of 10.5% for Vp, and 3.6–18.3% with an average value of 10.4% for Vs) is caused by dislocation creep-induced lattice-preferred orientation of antigorite. Three distinct patterns of seismic anisotropy correspond to three types of antigorite fabrics (S-, L-, and LS-tectonites) formed by three categories of strain geometry (i.e., coaxial flattening, coaxial constriction, and simple shear), respectively. Our results are thought to provide a new explanation for various anisotropic patterns of subduction systems observed worldwide.

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