Experimental assessment of the relationships between electrical resistivity, crustal melting and strain localization beneath the Himalayan-Tibetan Belt

Leïla Hashim, Fabrice Gaillard, Rémi Champallier, Nicole Le Breton, Laurent Arbaret, Bruno Scaillet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Seismic and magnetotelluric field campaigns carried out across the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau show mid-crustal low resistivity and low velocity zones. Interpretation of these anomalous observations, either saline fluids or partial melts, is still largely debated partly because experimental data simulating crustal melting under relevant pressure, temperature and water content conditions have not been provided. We report laboratory measurements constraining the resistivity as a function of temperature and the viscosity at 800. °C of natural metapelite during partial melting. Dehydration-melting of muscovite is simulated using a Paterson press at 300. MPa in the temperature range 600-850. °C. Electrical resistivity has been measured from the solid state (<650. °C) to 25. vol% of partial melt (>800. °C) and viscosity has been determined at 800. °C. Our results together with recent experimental constraints on seismic properties of partially molten rocks strongly suggest that the electrical and seismic anomalies measured underneath the Himalayan-Tibetan collisional orogen are best explained by partially molten rocks or local accumulation of pure melt bodies. This is also remarkably corroborated by the temperature-depth conditions of crustal partial melting and melt ponding expected from petrological surveys in the Himalayan range. However, our data suggest much higher melt fraction than previously thought and this implies regions in the middle crust having viscosities several orders of magnitude lower than previously assumed. High degree partial melting in the middle crust of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogenic system suggests revision of conceptual models on the development of mountain belts or that geophysical models addressing electrical resistivity at depth must be re-evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is part of L.H.'s Ph.D. supported by the French Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche . This research is funded by the European Research Council, ERC , (Grant no. 279097 ) and by the ANR (Grant no. ANR-10-BLAN-62101 ). The authors would like to thank Mark Harrison for careful and efficient editorial handling as well as four anonymous reviewers for constructive comments that significantly improved this paper. We would also like to acknowledge Ida Di Carlo for analytical support, Mickael Laumonier for constructive discussions, and Esteban Le Moing and Philippe Teulat for technical assistance.


  • Electrical resistivity
  • Partial melting
  • Viscosity


Dive into the research topics of 'Experimental assessment of the relationships between electrical resistivity, crustal melting and strain localization beneath the Himalayan-Tibetan Belt'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this