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Fialko, YA, Rubin AM.  1999.  What controls the along-strike slopes of volcanic rift zones? Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 104:20007-20020.   10.1029/1999jb900143   AbstractWebsite

We investigate the dynamics of viscous pressure losses associated with lateral magma transport in volcanic rift zones by performing (I) coupled elastic-hydrodynamic simulations of downrift magma flow in dikes and (2) analog experiments mimicking lateral dike propagation in the presence of an along-rift topographic slope. It is found that near-source eruptions are likely to be favored by shallow slopes while distant downrift eruptions may be encouraged by steeper slopes, provided that along-rift variations in the tectonic stress are negligible or uncorrelated on the timescale of multiple dike intrusions. This implies the existence of a critical slope to which a volcanic rift zone would naturally evolve. Such behavior is produced by three-dimensional (3-D) elastic effects and is controlled by the ratio of the driving pressure gradient due to the along-strike topographic slope to the vertical gradient in the excess magma pressure in the dike. This model may be viewed as complementary to commonly cited mechanisms that appeal to magma viscosity and the dynamics of freezing of lava flows at the surface to explain the low profiles of basaltic shield volcanoes. Our estimated values of the critical slopes are in general agreement with observations in Hawaiian rift zones, but further development of fully 3-D models is required for more accurate predictions.

Fialko, YA, Rubin AM.  1999.  Thermal and mechanical aspects of magma emplacement in giant dike swarms. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 104:23033-23049.   10.1029/1999jb900213   AbstractWebsite

We consider the thermal history and dynamics of magma emplacement in giant feeder dikes associated with continental flood basalts. For driving pressure gradients inferred for giant dike swarms, thicknesses of <10 m would enable dikes to transport magma laterally over the distances observed in the field (up to thousands of kilometers) without suffering thermal lock-up. Using time-dependent numerical solutions for the thermal evolution of a dike channel under laminar and turbulent flow conditions in the presence of phase transitions, we investigate the possibility that the observed dike thicknesses (of the order of 100 m) result from thermal erosion of the country rocks during dike emplacement. This implies that the observed range of dike widths in giant dike swarms may reflect variations in the source volume and not the excess magma pressure. It is found that the total volume of intruded magma required to produce an order of magnitude increase in dike width via wall rock melting broadly agrees with the estimated volumes of individual flows in continental flood basalts. The presence of chilled margins and apparently low crustal contamination characteristics of some giant dikes may be consistent with turbulent magma flow and extensive melt back during dike emplacement. In this case, measurements of the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility most likely indicate magma flow directions during the final stages of dike intrusion. Shear stresses generated at the dike wall when the dike starts to freeze strongly decrease with increasing dike width, which implies that thicker dikes may have less tendency to produce consistent fabric alignment. Our results suggest that if the dike was propagating downslope off a plume-related topographic swell, the mechanism responsible for flow termination could possibly have been related to underpressurization and collapse (implosion) of the shallow magma plumbing system feeding the intrusion. Radial dikes that erupted at the periphery of the topographic uplift might have increased (rather than decreased) extensional stresses in the crust within the topographic uplift upon their solidification.

Fialko, YA, Rubin AM.  1997.  Numerical simulation of high-pressure rock tensile fracture experiments: Evidence of an increase in fracture energy with pressure? Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 102:5231-5242.   10.1029/96jb03859   AbstractWebsite

High confining pressure fracture tests of Indiana limestone [Abou-Sayed, 1977] and Iidate granite [Hashida et al., 1993] were simulated using boundary element techniques and a Dugdale-Barenblatt (tension-softening) model of the fracture process zone. Our results suggest a substantial (more than a factor of 2) increase in the fracture energy of Indiana limestone when the confining pressure was increased from zero to only 6-7 MPa. While Hashida es al. [1993] concluded that there was no change in the fracture energy of Iidate granite at confining pressures up to 26.5 MPa, we find that data from one series of experiments (''compact-tension'' tests in their terminology) are also consistent with a significant (more than a factor of 2) increase in fracture energy. Data from another set of their experiments (thick-walled cylinder tests) seem to indicate a decrease in the fracture energy of Iidate granite at confining pressures,of 6-8 MPa, but these may be biased due to the very small specimen size. To our knowledge these results are the first reliable indication from laboratory experiments that rock tensile fracture energy varies with confining pressure. Based on these results, some possible mechanisms of pressure sensitive fracture are discussed. We suggest that the inferred increase in fracture energy results from more extensive inelastic deformation near the crack tip that increases the effective critical crack opening displacement. Such deformation might have occurred due to the large deviatoric stress in the vicinity of the crack tip in the Abou-Sayed experiments, and due to the enlarged region of significant tensile stress near the crack tip in the Hashida et al. compact tension tests. These results also highlight the fact that at confining pressures that exceed the tensile strength of the material, tensile fracture energy will in general depend upon the crack size and the distribution of loads within it, as well as the ambient stress.