Geothermobarometry is the science of measuring the previous pressure and temperature history of a metamorphic or intrusive igneous rocks. Geothermobarometry is a combination of geobarometry, where a pressure of mineral formation is resolved, and geothermometry where a temperature of formation is resolved.


Geothermobarometry relies upon understanding the temperature of the formation of minerals within metamorphic and igneous rocks, and is particularly useful in metamorphic rocks. There are several methods of measuring the temperature or pressure of mineral formation relying on chemical equilibrium between metamorphic minerals or by measuring the chemical composition of individual minerals.

Thermobarometry relies upon the fact that mineral pairs/assemblages vary their compositions as a function of temperature and pressure. There are numerous extra factors to consider such as oxygen fugacity and water activity (roughly, the same as concentration). The distribution of component elements between the mineral assemblages is then analysed using an electron microprobe or scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Data on the geothermometers and geobarometers is derived from both laboratory studies on artificial mineral assemblages, where minerals are grown at known temperatures and pressures and the chemical equilibrium measured directly, and from calibration using natural systems.

For example, one of the best known and most widely applicable geothermometers is the garnet-biotite relationship where the relative proportions of Fe and Mg in garnet and biotite change with increasing temperature, so measurement of the compositions of these minerals to give the Fe-Mg distribution between them allows the temperature of crystallization to be calculated, given some assumptions.


In natural systems, the chemical reactions occur in open systems with unknown geological and chemical histories, and application of geothermobarometers relies on several assumptions that must hold in order for the laboratory data and natural compositions to relate in a valid fashion:


Some techniques include:


Note that the Fe-Mg exchange thermometers are empirical (laboratory tested and calibrated) as well as calculated based on a theoretical thermodynamic understanding of the components and phases involved. The Ti-in-biotite and Zr-in-rutile thermometers are solely empirical and not well understood thermodynamically.


Various mineral assemblages rely more upon pressure than temperature; for example reactions which involve a large volume change. At high pressure, specific minerals assume lower volumes (therefore density increases, as the mass does not change) - it is these minerals which are good indicators of paleo-pressure.

Clinopyroxene thermobarometry


  1. Ti-in biotite geothermometer, Henry et al. 2005
  2. Lindsley & Andersen 1983 - A Two-pyroxene Thermometer; Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 88
  3. Crystallization thermometers for zircon and rutile, Watson et al. 2006; Contributions to mineralogy and petrology v. 151
  4. Kohn, M.J. and Spear, F.S. (1989): Am. Min. 74:77-84. (Pargasite component)
  5. Kohn, M.J. and Spear, F.S. (1990): Am. Min. 75:89-96. (Tschermakite component)
  6. Hammerstrom, J.M. and Zen, E.-an. (1986): Am. Min. 71:1297-1313.
  7. Hollister, L.S., Grissom, G.C., Peters, E.K., Stowell, H.H. and Sisson, V.B.(1987): Am. Mineral. 72:231-239.
  8. Johnson, and Rutherford (1989): Geology 17: 837-841.
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