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Fracturing of volcanic systems: Experimental insights into pre-eruptive conditions

Smith, R; Sammonds, PR; Kilburn, CRJ; (2009) Fracturing of volcanic systems: Experimental insights into pre-eruptive conditions. EARTH PLANET SC LETT , 280 (1-4) 211 - 219. 10.1016/j.epsl.2009.01.032.

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Abstract

Conditions for fracturing are a primary control on the behaviour of volcanic systems, especially during the approach to eruption. We here present the results of deformation experiments under simulated volcanic conditions on a porhyritic andesite from ancestral Mount Shasta. Andesite was chosen as a representative material because it is common at subduction-zone volcanoes, among both erupted products and country rock. We deformed the lava in tension and triaxial compression tests at strain rates of 10(-5) s(-1), confining pressures from 0 to 50 MPa and temperatures up to 900 degrees C. We also concurrently recorded acoustic emissions (AE), in order to monitor cracking activity. The results show that deformation behaviour changes significantly in the temperature range 600-750 degrees C. Thus, as temperatures increased across this interval, the tensile fracture toughness increased from 2.5 +/- 0.5 MPa m(1/2) to 3.5 +/- 1 MPa m(1/2), the compressive strength decreased from 110 +/- 30 MPa to 55 +/- 35 MPa (at 900 degrees C) and the corresponding Young's Modulus decreased from 20 +/- 4 GPa to 6 +/- 4 GPa. The changes occur when the deformation of the sample changes from elastic-brittle to brittle-ductile behaviour, which we attribute to the blunting of crack tips due to melting of the glass phase and enhanced crystal plasticity at high temperature. AE activity was observed in all experiments, indicating that earthquakes can be generated not only in country rock, but also in hot magma, such as may be found in lava domes and at the margins of magma conduits. In addition. the trends in accelerating AE event rates before sample failure were comparable to those seen in earthquakes before some volcanic eruptions and a minimum in the seismic b-value coincided with sample failure. Applied to volcanic systems, the results suggest that (1) andesite strength and elasticity will not be affected by temperature or pressure beyond similar to 10-100 m from active magma, (2) before eruptions, fractures propagate preferentially through weaker horizons in a mechanically heterogeneous volcano, and (3) volcanic rocks have characteristic seismic b-values that are perturbed during the approach to bulk failure. Each of these conditions provides quantitative constraints on models for seismic precursors to eruption or intrusion. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Type:Article
Title:Fracturing of volcanic systems: Experimental insights into pre-eruptive conditions
DOI:10.1016/j.epsl.2009.01.032
Keywords:rock mechanics, high temperature fracture, andesite, eruption forecast, VT earthquakes, MOUNT-ST-HELENS, MODIFIED GRIFFITH CRITERION, SUBCRITICAL CRACK-GROWTH, FAULT-PLANE SOLUTIONS, ROCK FRACTURE, ACOUSTIC-EMISSION, WESTERLY GRANITE, SILICIC MAGMA, IGNEOUS ROCKS, LAVA DOME
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Biosciences (Division of) > Cell and Developmental Biology
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Earth Sciences
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

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