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Tectonic pressure gradients during viscous creep drive fluid flow and brittle failure at the base of the seismogenic zone

Menegon, Luca and Fagereng, Åke ORCID: 2021. Tectonic pressure gradients during viscous creep drive fluid flow and brittle failure at the base of the seismogenic zone. Geology 49 (10) , 1255–1259. 10.1130/G49012.1

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Fluid-pressure cycles are commonly invoked to explain alternating frictional and viscous deformation at the base of the seismogenic crust. However, the stress conditions and geological environment of fluid-pressure cycling are unclear. We address this problem by detailed structural investigation of a vein-bearing shear zone at Sagelvvatn, northern Norwegian Caledonides. In this dominantly viscous shear zone, synkinematic quartz veins locally crosscut mylonitic fabric at a high angle and are rotated and folded with the same sense of shear as the mylonite. Chlorite thermometry indicates that both veining and mylonitization occurred at ∼315–400 °C. The vein-filled fractures are interpreted as episodically triggered by viscous creep in the mylonite, where quartz piezometry and brittle failure modes are consistent with low (18–44 MPa) differential stress. The Sagelvvatn shear zone is a stretching shear zone, where elevated pressure drives a hydraulic gradient that expels fluids from the shear zone to the host rocks. In low-permeability shear zones, this hydraulic gradient facilitates build-up of pore-fluid pressure until the hydrofracture criterion is reached and tensile fractures open. We propose that hydraulic gradients established by local and cyclic pressure variations during viscous creep can drive episodic fluid escape and result in brittle-viscous fault slip at the base of the seismogenic crust.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Additional Information: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY license.
Publisher: Geological Society of America
ISSN: 1943-2682
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 November 2021
Date of Acceptance: 3 May 2021
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 18:15

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