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Scales of columnar jointing in igneous rocks: field measurements and controlling factors
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2012 (English)In: Bulletin of Volcanology, ISSN 0258-8900, E-ISSN 1432-0819, Vol. 74, no 2, p. 457-482Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Columnar jointing is a common feature of solidified lavas, sills and dikes, but the factors controlling the characteristic stoutness of columns remain debated, and quantitative field observations are few in number. In this paper, we provide quantitative measurements on sizing of columnar joint sets and our assessment of the principal factors controlling it. We focus on (1) chemistry, as it is the major determinant of the physical (mechanical and thermal) properties of the lava, and (2) geology, as it influences the style of emplacement and lava geometry, setting boundary conditions for the cooling process and the rate of heat loss. In our analysis, we cover lavas with a broad range of chemical compositions (from basanite to phonolite, for six of which we provide new geochemical analyses) and of geological settings. Our field measurements cover 50 columnar jointing sites in three countries. We provide reliable, manually digitized data on the size of individual columns and focus the mathematical analysis on their geometry (23,889 data on side length, of which 17,312 are from full column sections and 3,033 data on cross-sectional area and order of polygonality). The geometrical observations show that the variation in characteristic size of columns between different sites exceeds one order of magnitude (side length ranging from 8 to 338 cm) and that the column-bounding polygons’ average order is less than 6. The network of fractures is found to be longer than required by a minimum-energy hexagonal configuration, indicating a non-equilibrium, geologically quick process. In terms of the development and characteristic sizing of columnar joint sets, our observations suggest that columns are the result of an interplay between the geological setting of emplacement and magma chemistry. When the geological setting constrains the geometry of the emplaced body, it exerts a stronger control on characteristic column stoutness. At unconstrained geometries (e.g. unconfined lava flows), chemistry plays the major role, resulting in stouter columns in felsic lavas and slenderer columns in mafic lavas.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 74, no 2, p. 457-482
National Category
Geology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-375168DOI: 10.1007/s00445-011-0534-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-375168DiVA, id: diva2:1283078
Available from: 2019-01-28 Created: 2019-01-28 Last updated: 2019-01-28

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Mattsson, Hannes B.
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