Phd student, University of Copenhagen
A core part of the oldest rocks on Earth is analyzed with implications for Earths earliest dynamics
The Isua Supracrustal Belt (ISB) is a 3.7 to 3.8 billion year (Ga) slice of oceanic crust preserved in the South-Western Greenland continent. It constitutes one of the oldest geological units preserved at the surface of the Earth and contains a wide variety of the rock types one would expect in an oceanic crust setting. Interpretation of the geology and geochemistry is complicated by multiple episodes of deformation and metamorphism (mineral reactions at variable temperature and pressure) during ancient mountain building events. The Felsic Formation is a central sub-unit within the ISB. It consists of highly deformed and altered, high silica rock. As it has been substantially changed from its original texture and composition, it is difficult to ascertain in what geological setting it was originally formed. Previous suggestions have included a sedimentary, volcanic or plutonic (subsurface magmatism) origin. Furthermore, many of the features have been ascribed to chemical reactions between the original rock and fluids (Brines, CO2) traveling through the crust. We have collected samples from a previously undiscovered section of the ISB where felsic rocks inter-mingle with mafic (low Si) rocks and have experienced no alteration and little deformation. From these samples we can infer that at least some of the Felsic rocks were plutonic in origin. We have also analyzed their chemical composition and have found key similarities between these samples and more altered samples, implying that they are representative of the Felsic Formation. With this, we can ascribe a geological setting to the unit and work out what has been added and subtracted during alteration. Isotopes of Hf and Nd amd dates derived from U-Pb decay in zircons enable us to characterize the source of magma, for how long it persisted and how it interacted with the magmas producing the other rock types in the ISB.
Abstract: Amphibolite facies early Archaean Amîtsoq gneisses envelop and intrude the c. 3,800 Ma Isua supracrustal belt, Isukasia area, southern West Greenland. Most of these gneisses are strongly deformed, but in a c. 75 km2 augen of lower deformation, the Amîtsoq gneisses are seen to comprise predominantly 3,750–3,700 Ma tonalitic grey gneisses that were intruded first by thin bodies of mafic to dioritic composition, known collectively as the Inaluk dykes, and then by c. 3,600 Ma white gneisses and finally by sporadic c. 3,400 Ma pegmatitic gneiss sheets. The grey gneisses could have formed by partial melting of crust consisting predominantly of basic rocks. The Inaluk dykes are interpreted as strongly fractionated basic melts of mantle origin, contaminated by crustal material. The white gneisses consist mostly of medium grained granite and occur as lenses and anastomosing sheets throughout their host of grey gneisses with subordinate inclusions of supracrustal rocks. The white gneisses have chemistry compatible with formation by partial melting at depth of a source dominated by grey gneisses. The igneous chemistry, including REE abundances, of the grey gneisses and white gneisses has been modified to varying degrees by metasomatism and assimilation reactions during the crystallisation of the white gneisses and also during subsequent tectonometamorphic events. The white gneisses are evidence for considerable reworking by anatexis of sialic crust in the early Archaean, 150 to 100 Ma after its formation. The white gneisses and the pegmatitic gneisses show that granitic rocks s.s. were important in the earliest Archaean, and are further evidence of the diversity of the oldest-known sial.
Pub.: 01 Jun '86, Pinned: 13 Jun '17
Abstract: Modern basalts have seemingly lost all 'memory' of the primitive Earth's mantle except for an ambiguous isotopic signal observed in some rare gases. Although the Earth is expected to have reached a thermal steady state within several hundred million years of accretion, it is not known how and when the initial chemical fractionations left over from planetary accretion (and perhaps a stage involving a magma ocean) were overshadowed by fractionations imposed by modern-style geodynamics. Because of the lack of samples older than 4 Gyr, this early dynamic regime of the Earth is poorly understood. Here we compare published Hf-Nd isotope data on supracrustals from Isua, Greenland, with similar data on lunar rocks and the SNC (martian) meteorites, and show that, about 3.8 Gyr ago, the geochemical signature of the Archaean mantle was partly inherited from the initial differentiation of the Earth. The observed features seem to indicate that the planet at that time was still losing a substantial amount of primordial heat. The survival of remnants from an early layering in the modern deep mantle may account for some unexplained seismological, thermal and geochemical characteristics of the Earth as observed today.
Pub.: 13 Apr '00, Pinned: 13 Jun '17
Abstract: A sheeted-dike complex within the approximately 3.8-billion-year-old Isua supracrustal belt (ISB) in southwest Greenland provides the oldest evidence of oceanic crustal accretion by spreading. The geochemistry of the dikes and associated pillow lavas demonstrates an intraoceanic island arc and mid-ocean ridge-like setting, and their oxygen isotopes suggest a hydrothermal ocean-floor-type metamorphism. The pillows and dikes are associated with gabbroic and ultramafic rocks that together make up an ophiolitic association: the Paleoarchean Isua ophiolite complex. These sheeted dikes offer evidence for remnants of oceanic crust formed by sea-floor spreading of the earliest intact rocks on Earth.
Pub.: 24 Mar '07, Pinned: 13 Jun '17
Abstract: The Isua supracrustal belt (ISB) and the Nuvvuagittuq greenstone belt (NGB) are among the oldest suites of mafic volcanic rocks preserved on Earth and are the best candidates for representing its early crust. Despite the possible 500 Ma age difference between the belts, these mantle-derived rocks show compositional similarities, with features resembling rocks formed in subduction initiation environments. With the addition of new 142Nd data for the Garbenschiefer unit of the ISB reported here, high precision 142Nd data are now available for all the mafic lithologies from both belts. Mantle-derived rocks from both the ISB and NGB belts exhibit a range of 142Nd/144Nd ratios. The datasets for the two belts, however, are significantly different, suggesting a different origin for their 142Nd anomalies. Nearly all ISB samples have excesses in 142Nd, including the newly analyzed Garbenschiefer boninitic amphibolites (mean of +12 ppm+12 ppm). Excesses in 142Nd/144Nd compared to the Nd standard for all the ISB rocks range between +8 and +20 ppm+20 ppm, with a near Gaussian distribution around +12 ppm+12 ppm. This distribution could simply reflect the analytical error (±5 ppm) around a single 142Nd/144Nd ratio indicating that the samples formed after the extinction of 146Sm from a source with a nearly uniform 142Nd/144Nd ratio. In contrast, the NGB shows a range of 142Nd/144Nd ratios from +8 to −18 ppm−18 ppm relative to the modern Nd standard and displays a flat distribution of 142Nd/144Nd ratios. The ISB samples show no significant correlation between their 142Nd/144Nd and Sm/Nd ratios, consistent with their formation in the Eoarchean via melting of a Hadean depleted mantle. In contrast, all NGB samples display a 142Nd/144Nd vs. Sm/Nd correlation, consistent with their crystallization in the Hadean. The mantle sources for both the ISB and NGB mantle-derived rocks have a similar 142Nd/144Nd ratio at the possible age of formation of the NGB (∼4.3 Ga) suggesting the derivation of ISB and NGB rocks from a common early-formed depleted mantle source formed between 4.47 and 4.42 Ga with a 147Sm/144Nd ratio ∼0.218. This mantle appears to have been an important source component involved in the formation of the primitive crust during most of the Hadean and Eoarchean eons.
Pub.: 21 Mar '16, Pinned: 13 Jun '17
Abstract: The discovery of deficits in 142Nd/144Nd in mafic rocks of the Nuvvuagittuq supracrustal belt (NSB) has triggered a debate about the possible preservation of Hadean (pre-3.85 Ga) crustal remnants in the little-known but areally extensive Innuksuac complex (3.6–3.8 Ga, Inukjuak domain, Northeast Superior Province, Canada). Geochronological investigations in the NSB, however, are hampered by the poor preservation and highly disturbed isotopic record of various mafic (amphibolite) lithologies that host the 142Nd anomalies. Here we present 146Sm–142Nd and 147Sm–143Nd data for rocks of extrusive magmatic and sedimentary protoliths from the Ukaliq supracrustal belt, a newly discovered volcano-sedimentary enclave enclosed in granitoid gneisses of the Inukjuak domain. Our study also includes the first 146Sm–142Nd data for quartz-magnetite rocks (banded iron-formation; BIF) of the NSB and the Eoarchean Isua supracrustal belt (ISB) in southern West Greenland. We show that Ukaliq amphibolites carry variably negative 142Nd anomalies, ranging from 0 to −10 ppm, which are positively correlated with their Sm/Nd ratio. If considered as an isochron relationship, the 146Sm–142Nd array yields an apparent Hadean emplacement age of <img height="18" border="0" style="vertical-align:bottom" width="76" alt="View the MathML source" title="View the MathML source" src="http://origin-ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0012821X16305313-si1.gif">4215−76+50 Ma. The negative 142Nd anomalies, however, appear to be mainly restricted to amphibolites with boninitic affinities, likely reflecting inheritance from an enriched mantle source. In contrast, tholeiitic and ultramafic lavas have normal μ142Nd regardless of their Sm/Nd ratio. Furthermore, BIF from Ukaliq and Nuvvuagittuq lack the negative 142Nd anomalies that should have been produced by in situ decay of 146Sm had these sediments been deposited prior to ca. 4.1 Ga. Instead, they exhibit μ142Nd identical to that measured in Isua BIF. Collectively, our results suggest that the 146Sm–142Nd array characterizing mafic lithologies of Ukaliq and Nuvvuagittuq is an inherited signature with doubtful chronological significance. We interpret the volcanic protoliths of the Innuksuac complex to have been produced by metasomatically triggered melting of a variably enriched Eoarchean mantle, following addition of felsic melts and/or fluids derived from a foundering Hadean mafic crust. Application of coupled 146,147Sm–142,143Nd chronometry to Ukaliq lavas yields a model age of differentiation of <img height="18" border="0" style="vertical-align:bottom" width="78" alt="View the MathML source" title="View the MathML source" src="http://origin-ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0012821X16305313-si2.gif">4.36−0.06+0.05 Ga for this Hadean precursor. This is similar to late-stage crystallization ages inferred for the lunar and terrestrial magma oceans. The long-term preservation of Earth's primordial crust points to subdued lithospheric recycling in the post-magma ocean Earth.
Pub.: 22 Oct '16, Pinned: 13 Jun '17