Deep Lithospheric Thickening and Refertilization beneath Continental Arcs: Case Study of the P, T and Compositional Evolution of Peridotite Xenoliths from the Sierra Nevada, California Academic Article uri icon


  • Thickening of arc lithosphere influences the extent of magmatic differentiation and is thereby important for the evolution of juvenile arcs into mature continental crust. Here, we use mantle xenoliths from the late Mesozoic Sierra Nevada continental arc in California (USA) to constrain the pressure, temperature, and compositional evolution of the deep lithosphere beneath a mature arc. These xenoliths consist of spinel peridotites and garnet-bearing spinel peridotites. The former are characterized by coarse-grained protogranular textures having bulk compositions indicative of high-degree melting. The latter are characterized by porphyroclastic textures, garnet coronas around spinels, garnet exsolution lamellae in pyroxenes, and pyroxenes with high-Al cores and low-Al rims. The garnet-bearing spinel peridotites range from depleted to fertile compositions, but the high Cr-numbers [molar Cr/(Cr + Al)] of spinel cores reflect high-degree melting. These observations suggest that the protoliths of the garnet-bearing spinel peridotites were melt-depleted spinel peridotites. Constraints from geothermobarometry and bulk compositions coupled with mantle melting models suggest that the protoliths underwent shallow melt depletion (1-2 GPa, 1300-1400C), followed by compression, cooling, and final equilibration within the garnet stability field (~3 GPa, <800C). The deepest equilibrated samples are the most refertilized, suggesting that refertilization occurred during compression. We interpret this P-T-composition path to reflect progressive thickening of the Sierran arc lithosphere perhaps as a result of magmatic inflation or tectonic thickening. We hypothesize that newly formed arc lithospheric mantle thickens enough to pinch out the asthenospheric wedge, juxtaposing Sierran arc lithosphere against the subducting oceanic plate. This could have terminated arc magmatism and initiated cooling of the deep Sierran lithosphere. The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Petrology

author list (cited authors)

  • Chin, E. J., Lee, C., Luffi, P., & Tice, M.

citation count

  • 48

complete list of authors

  • Chin, Emily J||Lee, Cin-Ty A||Luffi, Peter||Tice, Mike

publication date

  • March 2012