Mechanisms of melt extraction during lower crustal partial melting

Michael A. Etheridge, Nathan R. Daczko, Timothy Chapman*, Catherine A. Stuart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Progressive vapour-absent partial melting of a closed rock system increases melt pressure due to an expansion in the volume of the mineral plus melt assemblage. For a locally closed system, we quantify the melt pressure increase per increment of partial melting of a metapelite using phase equilibria modelling and combine it with Mohr–Coulomb theory to examine the interplay between melt pressure and fracture behaviour. It is shown that very small increments of vapour-absent partial melting (<1%) increase melt pore pressure by tens of MPa leading to inevitable brittle failure of locally closed systems. Fracturing will affect these systems, even if initially limited to the scale of a few grains, and a connected microfracture network will enhance permeability as partial melting progresses. This will lead to a conditionally open system, potentially limiting accumulation of melt in the source. Repeated and cyclic fracture as temperature progressively increases will drive migration of the melt into sites of low fluid pressure at all scales. Crystal-plastic creep processes create deformation-induced dilatancy gradients that dominate over buoyancy forces at all scales in the melt source. Brittle and ductile deformation therefore cooperate in the extraction of melt. Enhanced porosity and permeability in ductile shear zones result in lower fluid pressure, providing a potentially important driving force for melt migration and drainage ‘up’ shear zones and along larger scale fluid pressure gradients in the crust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-75
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • magmafracture
  • melt extraction and migration
  • Mohr–Coulomb
  • phase equilibria


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