Growth of Transgressive Sills in Mechanically Layered Media: Faroe Islands, NE Atlantic Margin
Friday, 19 December 2014
Igneous sills represent an important contribution to upper crustal magma transport, acting as magma conduits and stores (i.e. as sill networks, or as nascent magma chambers). Complex sill-network intrusion in basin settings can have significant impact on subsurface fluid flow (e.g., water aquifer and hydrocarbon systems), geothermal systems, the maturation of hydrocarbons, and methane release. Models for these effects are critically dependent on the models for sill emplacement. This study focuses on staircase-geometry sills in the Faroe Islands, on the European Atlantic Margin, which are hosted in mechanically layered lavas (1-20 m thick) and basaltic volcaniclastic units (1-30 m thick). The sills range from 20-50 m thick, with each covering ~17 km2, and transgressing a vertical range of ~480 m. Steps in the sills are elliptical in cross section, and discontinuous laterally, forming smooth transgressive ramps, hence are interpreted as representing initial stages of sill propagation as magma fingers, which inflate through time to create a through-going sheet. Although steps correspond to the position of some host rock layer interfaces and volcaniclastic horizons, most interfaces are bypassed. The overall geometry of the sills is consistent with ENE-WSW compression, and NNW-SSE extension, and stress anisotropy-induced transgression. Local morphology indicates that mechanical layering suppressed tensile stress ahead of the crack tip, leading to a switch in minimum and intermediate stress axes, facilitating lateral sill propagation as fingers, and resulting in a stepped transgressive geometry.