Precambrian ultra-hot orogenic factory: Making and reworking of continental crust

A. L. Perchuk, O. G. Safonov, C. A. Smit, D. D. van Reenen, V. S. Zakharov, T. V. Gerya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanisms of Precambrian orogeny and their contribution to the origin of ultrahigh temperature granulites, granite-greenstone terranes and net crustal growth remain debatable. Here, we use 2D numerical models with 150 °C higher mantle temperatures compared to present day conditions to investigate physical and petrological controls of Precambrian orogeny during forced continental plates convergence. Numerical experiments show that convergence between two relatively thin blocks of continental lithosphere with fertile mantle creates a short-lived cold collisional belt that later becomes absorbed by a long-lived thick and flat ultra-hot accretionary orogen with Moho temperatures of 700–1100 °C. The orogen underlain by hot partially molten depleted asthenospheric mantle spreads with plate tectonic rates towards the incoming lithospheric block. The accretionary orogeny is driven by delamination of incoming lithospheric mantle with attached mafic lower crust and invasion of the hot partially molten asthenospheric wedge under the accreted crust. A very fast convective cell forms atop the subducting slab, in which hot asthenospheric mantle rises against the motion of the slab and transports heat towards the moving orogenic front. Juvenile crustal growth during the orogeny is accompanied by net crustal loss due to the lower crust subduction. Stability of an ultra-hot orogeny is critically dependent on the presence of relatively thin and warm continental lithosphere with thin crust and dense fertile mantle roots subjected to plate convergence. Increased thickness of the continental crust and subcontinental lithospheric mantle, pronounced buoyancy of the lithospheric roots, and decreased mantle and continental Moho temperature favor colder and more collision-like orogenic styles with thick crust, reduced magmatic activity, lowered metamorphic temperatures, and decreased degree of crustal modification. Our numerical modeling results thus indicate that different types of orogens (cold, mixed-hot and ultra-hot) could be created at the same time in the Early Earth, depending on compositional and thermal structures of interacting continental blocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-586
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2018


  • Collision
  • Continental crust
  • Delamination
  • Precambrian
  • Subduction
  • Ultra-hot orogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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