Chapter 7 Metamorphism and Metamorphic Rocks


The topics covered in this chapter can be summarized as follows:

Section Summary
7.1 Controls Over Metamorphic Processes Metamorphism is controlled by five main factors: the composition of the parent rock, the temperature to which the rock is heated, the amount and type of pressure, the volumes and compositions of aqueous fluids that are present, and the amount of time available for metamorphic reactions to take place.
7.2 Classification of Metamorphic Rocks Metamorphic rocks are classified on the basis of texture and mineral composition. Foliation is a key feature of metamorphic rocks formed under directed pressure.  Foliated metamorphic rocks include slate, phyllite, schist, and gneiss. Metamorphic rocks formed in environments without strong directed pressure include hornfels, marble, and quartzite, although the latter two may form in high-pressure situations but not develop obvious foliated textures.
7.3 Plate Tectonics and Metamorphism Almost all metamorphism can be explained by plate-tectonic processes. Oceanic crustal rock can be metamorphosed near the spreading ridge where it was formed, but most other regional metamorphism takes place in areas where mountain ranges have been created, which are most common at convergent boundaries. Contact metamorphism takes place around magma bodies in the upper part of the crust, which are also most common above convergent boundaries.
7.4 Regional Metamorphism Geologists classify metamorphic rocks based on some key minerals—such as chlorite, garnet, andalusite, and sillimanite—that form at specific temperatures and pressures. Most regional metamorphism takes place beneath mountain ranges because the crust becomes thickened and rocks are pushed down to great depths because of the isostatic relationship between the crust and mantle. When mountains erode, those metamorphic rocks are uplifted by crustal rebound.
7.5 Contact Metamorphism and Hydrothermal Processes Contact metamorphism takes place around magma bodies that have intruded into cool rocks at high levels in the crust. Heat from the magma is transferred to the surrounding country rock, resulting in mineralogical and textural changes. Water from a cooling body of magma, or from convection of groundwater produced by the heat of the pluton, can also lead to metasomatism, hydrothermal alteration, and accumulation of valuable minerals in the surrounding rocks.

Questions for Review

Answers to Review Questions can be found in Appendix 2.

  1. What are the two main agents of metamorphism, and what are their respective roles in producing metamorphic rocks?
  2. Into what metamorphic rocks will a mudrock be transformed at very low, low, medium, and high metamorphic grades?
  3. Why doesn’t granite change very much at lower metamorphic grades?
  4. Describe the main process of foliation development in a metamorphic rock such as schist.
  5. What process contributes to metamorphism of oceanic crust at a spreading ridge?
  6. How do variations in the geothermal gradient affect the depth at which different metamorphic rocks form?
  7. Blueschist metamorphism takes place within subduction zones. What are the unique temperature and pressure characteristics of this geological setting?
  8. Rearrange the following minerals in order of increasing metamorphic grade: biotite, garnet, sillimanite, chlorite.
  9. Why does contact metamorphism not normally take place at significant depth in the crust?
  10. What is the role of magmatic fluids in metamorphism that takes place adjacent to a pluton?
  11. How does metasomatism differ from regional metamorphism?
  12. How does the presence of a hot pluton contribute to the circulation of groundwater that facilitates metasomatism and hydrothermal processes?
  13. What must be present in the country rock to produce a skarn?
  14. Two things that a geologist first considers when looking at a metamorphic rock are what the parent rock might have been, and what type of metamorphism has taken place. This can be difficult to do, even if you have the actual rock in your hand, but give it a try for the following metamorphic rocks:
    1. Chlorite schist
    2. Slate
    3. Mica-garnet schist
    4. Amphibolite
    5. Marble


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Physical Geology - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2019 by Steven Earle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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