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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof Ken McCaffrey

Cruden, A.R & McCaffrey, K.J.W (2001). Growth of plutons by floor subsidence: implications for rates of emplacement, intrusion spacing and melt-extraction mechanisms. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth Part A: Solid Earth & Geodesy 26(4-5): 303-315.

Author(s) from Durham


Geophysical and field-based studies indicate that
granitic phtons occur as either tabular (disk) or wedge
(funnel) shapes whose length (L) to thickness (7) ratio is
controlled by the empirical power law,
T = 0.6(+0.15)L0.6(~.l). The dimensions of phtons are selfsimilar
to other natural subsidence phenomena (calderas,
ice cauldrons, sinkholes, ice pits) and it is proposed that
they grow in a similar fashion by withdrawal of material
(melt) from an underlying source, which is then transferred
to the growing pluton within the crust. Experimental studies
show that growth of subsidence structures occurs by
vertical inflation >> horizontal elongation of an initial
depression with L = width of the source region. If pluton
growth is modelled in the same way, the empirical power
law relating T and L defines limits for phton growth that
are imposed by the width, thickness and degree of partial
melting from a lower crustal source. Several growth modes
that predict testable internal structural patterns are
identified for plutons, depending on whether they are
tabular or wedge-shaped, grow by continuous or pulsed
magma delivery and whether magma is accreted from
bottom to top, or vice versa. Rates of pluton growth are
geologically fast (hundreds to hundreds of thousands of
years) if magma supply is effectively continuous, but can
also take millions of years if the time between magma
delivery events is much longer than magma injection
events. Plutons formed by melt extraction from an area
directly beneath require large degrees of partial melting and
or very thick sources. Lower degrees of partial melting and
thinner sources are permitted when melt extraction occurs
over a larger region, which can lead to the formation of
spaced plutons. Tabular pluton growth will tend to favour
widely spaced plutons, unless degrees of partial melting in
the source are high. Wedge-shaped plutons can form much
closer together and require lower degrees of partial melting.
These results are in
general agreement with current geophysical, petrological
Correspondence to: A. R. Cruden
and experimental estimates of partial melting in the lower
continental crust.


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