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Physical controls and depth of emplacement of igneous bodies: A review

Abstract : The formation and growth of magma bodies are now recognised as involving the amalgamation of successive, discrete pulses such as sills. Sills would thus represent the building blocks of larger plutons (sensu lato). Mechanical and thermal considerations on the incremental development of these plutons raise the issue of the crustal levels at which magma can stall and accumulate as sills. Reviewing the mechanisms that could a priori explain sill formation, it is shown that principal physical controls include: rigidity contrast, where sills form at the interface between soft strata overlaid by comparatively stiffer strata; rheology anisotropy, where sills form within the weakest ductile zones; and rotation of deviatoric stress, where sills form when the minimum compressive stress becomes vertical. Comparatively, the concept of neutral buoyancy is unlikely to play a leading control in the emplacement of sills, although it could assist their formation. These different controls on sill formation, however, do not necessarily operate on the same length scale. The length scale associated with the presence of interfaces separating upper stiffer layers from lower softer ones determines the depth at which rigiditycontrolled sills will form. On another hand, the emplacement depths for rheology-controlled sills is likely to be determined by the distribution of the weakest ductile zones. Whereas the emplacement depth of stress-controlled sills is determined by a balance between the horizontal maximum compressive stress, which favours sill formation, and the buoyancy of their feeder dykes, which drives magma vertically. Ultimately, the depth at which a sill forms depends on whether crustal anisotropy or stress rotation is the dominant control, i.e. which of these processes operates at the smallest length scale. Using dimensional analysis, it is shown that sill formation controlled by remote stress rotation would occur on length scales of hundreds of meters or greater. This therefore suggests that crustal heterogeneities and their associated anisotropy are likely to play a larger role than remote stress rotation in controlling sill emplacement, unless these heterogeneities are several hundred meters or more apart. This also reinforces the role of local stress barriers, owing to interactions between deviatoric stress and crustal heterogeneities, in the formation of sills.
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Thierry Menand. Physical controls and depth of emplacement of igneous bodies: A review. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2011, 500, pp.11-19. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2009.10.016⟩. ⟨hal-00682291⟩

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