Measured and calculated elastic wave speeds in partially equilibrated mafic granulite xenoliths: Implications for the properties of an underplated lower continental crust


  • Roberta L. Rudnick,

  • Ian Jackson


Ultrasonic compressional wave velocities measured at 1.0 GPa and room temperature are compared with calculated velocities (based on single-crystal data and modal mineralogy) for a suite of mafic granulite xenoliths from the Chudleigh volcanic province, north Queensland, Australia. The xenoliths have nearly constant major element compositions but widely variable modal mineralogy, reflecting recrystallization under variable pressure-temperature conditions at depth in the continental crust (20–45 km). They thus provide an excellent opportunity to investigate velocity variation with depth in a mafic lower crust. Measured P wave velocities, corrected for the decompression-induced breakdown of garnet, range from 6.9 to 7.6 km/sec and correlate with derivation depth. These velocities are 5–12% lower than the calculated velocities (7.5–8.0 km/sec), apparently as a result of grain boundary alteration as well as irreversible changes that occurred in the xenoliths during rapid decompression. Calculated P wave velocities are similar to those estimated by Furlong and Fountain (1986) and Sobolev and Babeyko (1989) for mafic granulites formed through basaltic underplating of the continental crust. Depending upon in situ temperature, P wave velocities in the deepest samples may be interpreted as crustal (e.g., 7.3–7.6 km/sec, if heat flow is high) or mantle (7.7–7.8 km/sec, in areas of low heat flow). The range of velocities in the xenolith suite is larger than predicted for a fully equilibrated underplated basaltic layer, highlighting the importance of kinetic effects in determining the ultimate velocity profile of magmatically underplated crust. Comparison of our results with seismic profiles illustrates that the lower crust rarely reaches such high velocities, suggesting quartz-bearing rocks (country rocks?) are present within magmatically underplated layers of the deep crust.