Metamorphism

Metamorphism is the change of minerals or geologic texture (distinct arrangement of minerals) in pre-existing rocks (protoliths), without the protolith melting into liquid magma (a solid-state change).[1] The change occurs primarily due to heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. The chemical components and crystal structures of the minerals making up the rock may change even though the rock remains a solid. Changes at or just beneath Earth's surface due to weathering or diagenesis are not classified as metamorphism.[2] Metamorphism typically occurs between diagenesis (maximum 200°C), and melting (~850°C).[3]

Schematic representation of a metamorphic reaction. Abbreviations of minerals: act = actinolite; chl = chlorite; ep = epidote; gt = garnet; hbl = hornblende; plag = plagioclase. Two minerals represented in the figure do not participate in the reaction, they can be quartz and K-feldspar. This reaction takes place in nature when a mafic rock goes from amphibolite facies to greenschist facies.
A cross-polarized thin section image of a garnet-mica-schist from Salangen, Norway showing the strong strain fabric of schists. The black (isotropic) crystal is garnet, the pink-orange-yellow colored strands are muscovite mica, and the brown crystals are biotite mica. The grey and white crystals are quartz and (limited) feldspar.

The geologists who study metamorphism are known as "metamorphic petrologists." To determine the processes underlying metamorphism, they rely heavily on statistical mechanics and experimental petrology.

Three types of metamorphism exist: contact, dynamic, and regional. Metamorphism produced with increasing pressure and temperature conditions is known as prograde metamorphism. Conversely, decreasing temperatures and pressure characterize retrograde metamorphism.


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