Thermal damage and pore pressure effects on brittle-ductile transition of comiso limestone

A. Castagna, A. Ougier-Simonin, P. M. Benson, J. Browning, R. J. Walker, M. Fazio, S. Vinciguerra

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Volcanic edifices are commonly unstable, with magmatic and non‐magmatic fluid circulation, and elevated temperature gradients having influence on the mechanical strength of edifice and basement rocks. We present new mechanical characterisation of the Comiso limestone of the Mount Etna Volcano (Italy) basement to constrain the effects of regional ambient conditions associated with the volcanic system: the effects of pore fluid on rock strength and the effects of distal magmatic heating (~20°C to 600°C) at a range of simulated depths (0.2 to 2.0 km). The presence of water promotes ductile behaviour at shallow depths and causes a significant reduction in brittle rock strength compared to dry conditions. Thermal stressing, in which specimens were heated and cooled before mechanical testing at room temperature, has a variable effect for dry and saturated cases. In dry conditions, thermal stressing up to 450°C homogenises the strength of the specimen such that the majority of the specimens exhibit the same peak stress; at 600°C, the brittle failure is promoted at lower differential stress. The presence of water in thermally‐stressed specimens promotes ductile behaviour and reduces peak strength. Acoustic emission monitoring suggests that accumulated damage is associated with the heating‐cooling sequence, particularly in the 300‐450‐600°. Based on conduction modelling, we estimate this temperature range could affect basement rocks up to 300 m away from minor sheet intrusions and much further with larger bodies. Considering the dyke spacing beneath Etna, these conditions may apply to a significant percentage of the basement, promoting ductile behaviour at relatively shallow depths.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Early online date26 Jun 2018
Publication statusEarly online - 26 Jun 2018


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