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Metamorphism and the P-T History of Alpine Schist from the Newton Range, Southern Alps, New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-10, 18:50 authored by Murphy, Dave B

Metamorphic rocks have the potential to record in their mineral assemblages, mineral compositional zoning, and textures, information about geological changes and processes that occur during tectonic events. Interpretations of metamorphic pressure-temperature (P-T) records have traditionally relied on results of geothermobarometry studies, but that approach is not suitable in every case. Metamorphosed greywacke, which makes up ~95% of the New Zealand Southern Alps, has long proven problematic for traditional geothermobarometry because it develops intractable mineral compositions and/or assemblages, especially at relatively low temperature (greenschist facies) conditions. An alternative forward modelling approach using the computer program THERMOCALC was recently used to extract the first detailed P-T history (P-T path) from such previously intractably difficult "greyschist" rocks from a single site in the New Zealand Southern Alps. The present study is the first attempt to apply those new methods to rocks from another study area, and is the first detailed geological study of the Newton Range in the New Zealand Southern Alps. The Newton Range is a ~15 km-long, east-west trending range located ~30 km southeast of the town of Hokitika, ~110 km northeast of the Franz Josef-Fox Glacier region, and immediately to the east of the Alpine Fault in the Southern Alps, South Island, New Zealand. The rocks in the Newton Range are mainly derived from Torlesse Terrane accretionary prism greywacke and argillite (Alpine Schist, greyschist), together with a large pods of ultramafic rock (part of the Pounamu Ultramafic Belt (PUB)) and minor associated metabasic layers (greenschist), all metamorphosed to greenschist facies conditions. The dominant mineral assemblage in the greyschist (Qtz + Ms+ Bt ± Chl ± Ep ± Pl ± Ilm ± Ttn ± Grt ± Zrn ± Tur ± Ap ± Cal), much like that found elsewhere in the Southern Alps. As elsewhere in the Southern Alps, the dominant high-grade metamorphic mineral assemblages in the Alpine Schist in the Newton Range are inherited. The mineral assemblages, compositions, and some textures thus record evidence of processes that took place during tectonic events, presumably mainly in Cretaceous time, prior to the formation of the modern Southern Alps, which are forming today by the ongoing oblique continent-continent collision of the Pacific Plate against the Australian Plate at the Alpine Fault. Compositional zoning in garnet from the greyschist is an important record of the metamorphic P-T path traversed by the host rock as the garnet grew. Occasionally, garnet from the study area contains an inmost core (stage 0) of unusual (anomalously high- or low-MnO) composition. The cores with extremely low MnO are possibly detrital in origin, and those with extremely high MnO may perhaps have grown in the early tectonic episode that formed the Otago Schist. Typically, garnet shows the following core- to rim zoning sequence. Stages 1 & 2 show a progressive decrease in MnO and increase in FeO from core to rim, with higher MnO cores present in rocks with higher whole-rock MnO compositions. Stage 3 is characterised by a gradual decrease in CaO and signifies the growth of Ca-bearing oligoclase late in the garnet growth history. Stage 4 is a discontinuous overgrowth characterised by an abrupt increase in CaO. Such overgrowths have in the past been attributed to garnet growth accompanying the development of the Alpine Fault mylonite zone in the late Cenozoic. In the Newton Range they were only observed on garnet adjacent to the main outcrop of the PUB at ~4.5km from the Alpine Fault, far from the mylonite zone, so local element availability during decompression (and possibly fluid flow and/or metasomatism) may have played a part in the growth of these rims. A P-T path for Alpine Schist from the Newton Range has been estimated using detailed garnet composition data measured along core-to-rim transects across individual garnets, together with predicted garnet compositions and P-T pseudosection results calculated using THERMOCALC. The P-T path starts at ~3.5kbar/400°C, where both garnet and albite coexist, and increases in pressure and temperature to ~6.5bar/500°C where garnet coexists with both albite and oligoclase. The estimated peak metamorphic conditions probably correspond to peak metamorphic pressures, unlike in the Franz Josef-Fox Glacier region where peak conditions (~9.2kbar and 620°C) probably coincided with peak metamorphic temperatures.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Vry, Julie