In general, a metamorphic rock is coarser and has a higher density and lower porosity than the rock from which it was formed. Under low grade metamorphic conditions, the original rocks may only compact, as in the formation of slate from shale. High grade metamorphism changes the rock so completely that the source rock often cannot be readily identified.Foliation
Alteration of rock texture by metamorphism commonly results in a rearrangement of mineral particles into a parallel alignment, called foliation, as a result of directed stress. Foliation, called banding or layering, is probably the single most characteristic property of metamorphic rocks. For example, slate is a metamorphic rock in which there has been little recrystallization of fine-grained sedimentary shale, but mineral realignment gives the rock a tendency to break along smooth planes termed slaty cleavage. Further higher-grade metamorphic conditions lead to a foliation called schistosity, resulting in schists, formed when tabular minerals, such as hornblende, graphite, mica, or talc are aligned and tightly packed in a parallel fashion. High grade metamorphism can segregate minerals, thereby forming bands. This foliation is called gneissic layering and forms gneiss from such rock as granite. Foliation does not always occur during metamorphism.Changes in Chemical Constituents
Chemical changes occurring during metamorphism also can rearrange the chemical constituents into assemblages stable in their new environment, thus often forming new minerals of essentially the same chemical composition as those occurring in the rock prior to metamorphism. For example, hornblende can be changed into garnet or pyroxene. The mineral composition of rocks may also be altered by the addition of new elements or by the removal of elements formerly present through the action of circulating liquids or gases or by recrystallization under pressure.
Contact metamorphism occurs when local rocks are metamorphosed by the heat from an igneous intrusion, such as limestone turning to marble along the contact zone. Some of the changes that occur in the older rock are due simply to the heat radiated from the igneous mass and to the pressures it creates. More extensive alterations are produced by the fluids and gases given off by the igneous mass; metamorphism of this type rarely causes foliation. Rocks around hot springs, or mineral-rich water, both of which are common along active plate boundary ridges (see plate tectonics), are often changed by hydrothermal metamorphism (or metasomatism), which may, for example, transform granite into china clay; black smokers, which occur along mid-ocean ridges, are the exit vents for extensive hydrothermal systems that alter basalts and can deposit mounds of metalliferous sediments on the seafloor. Metamorphic rocks that develop by shearing and crushing of the rock at low temperature are called cataclastic and are usually associated with the mechanical forces, especially pressure, involved in faulting (see fault).Regional Metamorphism
Metamorphism on a grander scale, called regional metamorphism, accompanies mountain-building activity. These metamorphic rocks pervade regions that have been subjected to intense pressures and temperatures during the development of mountain chains along boundaries between crustal plates. Large scale, intense regional metamorphism is particularly great in the "roots" of these mountains, which were at considerable depths when the pressures forming the mountains were active. These kinds of metamorphic rocks are most commonly exposed in old mountain chains, like the Blue Ridge Mts., that have substantially eroded away over time, leaving only disturbed structure and regional metamorphic rocks.
Metamorphism produced with increasing pressure and temperature conditions is known as prograde metamorphism. Conversely, decreasing temperatures and pressure characterize retrograde metamorphism.
The upper boundary of metamorphic conditions is related to the onset of melting processes in the rock. The maximum temperature for metamorphism is typically between 700 - 900°C, depending on the pressure and on the composition of the rock. Migmatites are rocks formed at this upper limit, which contain pods and veins of material that has started to melt but has not fully segregated from the refractory residue. Since the 1980s, it has been recognized that rarely, rocks are dry enough, and of a refractory enough composition, to record without melting "ultrahigh" metamorphic temperatures of 900 - 1100°C.
Metamorphic facies are recognizable terranes or zones with an equilibrium assemblage of key minerals that were in equilibrium under specific range of temperature and pressure during a metamorphic event. The facies are named after the metamorphic rock formed under those facies conditions from basalt. Facies relationships were first described by Eskola (1920).
Low grade ------------------- Intermediate --------------------- High grade
Contact metamorphism is greater adjacent to the intrusion and dissipates with distance from the contact. The size of the aureole depends on the heat of the intrusive, its size, and the temperature difference with the wall rocks. Dikes generally have small aureoles with minimal metamorphism whereas large ultramafic intrusions can have significantly thick and well-developed contact metamorphism.
The metamorphic grade of an aureole is measured by the peak metamorphic mineral which forms in the aureole. This is usually related to the metamorphic temperatures of pelitic or alumonisilicate rocks and the minerals they form. The metamorphic grades of aureoles are andalusite hornfels, sillimanite hornfels, pyroxene hornfels.
Magmatic fluids coming from the intrusive rock may also take part in the metamorphic reactions. Extensive addition of magmatic fluids can significantly modify the chemistry of the affected rocks. In this case the metamorphism grades into metasomatism. If the intruded rock is rich in carbonate the result is a skarn. Fluorine-rich magmatic waters which leave a cooling granite may often form greisens within and adjacent to the contact of the granite. Metasomatic altered aureoles can localize the deposition of metallic ore minerals and thus are of economic interest.
The textures of dynamic metamorphic zones are dependent on the depth at which they were formed, as the confining pressure determines the deformation mechanisms which predominate. Within depths less than 5km, dynamic metamorphism is not often produced because the confining pressure is too low to produce frictional heat. Instead, a zone of breccia or cataclasite is formed, with the rock milled and broken into random fragments. This generally forms a mélange. At depth, the angular breccias transit into a ductile shear texture and into mylonite zones.
Within the depth range of 5-10km pseudotachylite is formed, as the confining pressure is enough to prevent brecciation and milling and thus energy is focused into discrete fault planes. The frictional heating in this case may melt the rock to form pseudotachylite glass or mylonite, and adjacent to these zones, result in growth of new mineral assemblages.
Within the depth range of 10-20km, deformation is governed by ductile deformation conditions and hence frictional heating is dispersed throughout shear zones, resulting in a weaker thermal imprint and distributed deformation. Here, deformation forms mylonite, with dynamothermal metamorphism observed rarely as the growth of porphyroblasts in mylonite zones.
Overthrusting may juxtapose hot lower crustal rocks against cooler mid and upper crust blocks, resulting in conductive heat transfer and localised contact metamorphism of the cooler blocks adjacent to the hotter blocks, and often retrograde metamorphism in the hotter blocks. The metamorphic assemblages in this case are diagnostic of the depth and temperature and the throw of the fault and can also be dated to give an age of the thrusting.
Metamorphism is further divided into prograde and retrograde metamorphism. Prograde metamorphism involves the change of mineral assemblages (paragenesis) with increasing temperature and (usually) pressure conditions. These are solid state dehydration reactions, and involve the loss of volatiles such as water or carbon dioxide. Prograde metamorphism results in a rock representing the maximum pressure and temperature experienced. These rocks often return to the surface without undergoing retrograde metamorphism , where the mineral assemblages would become more stable under lower pressures and temperatures.
Retrograde metamorphism involves the reconstitution of a rock under decreasing temperatures (and usually pressures) where revolatisation occurs; allowing the mineral assemblages formed in prograde metamorphism to return to more stable minerals at the lower pressures. This is a relatively uncommon process, because volatiles must be present for retrograde metamorphism to occur. Most metamorphic rocks return to the surface as a representation of the maximum pressures and temperatures they have undergone.
Winter J.D., 2001. An introduction to Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. Prentice-Hall Inc. , 695 pages. ISBN 0-13-240342-0.