Eddy Flow during Magma Emplacement: The Basemelt Sill, Antarctica

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Nick Petford and Seyed Mirhadizadeh, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2, United Kingdom
The McMurdo Dry Valleys magmatic system, Antarctica, forms part of the Ferrar dolerite Large Igneous Province. Comprising a vertical stack of interconnected sills, the complex provides a world-class example of pervasive lateral magma flow on a continental scale. The lowermost intrusion (Basement Sill) offers detailed sections through the now frozen particle macrostructure of a congested magma slurry1. Image-based numerical modelling where the intrusion geometry defines its own unique finite element mesh allows simulations of the flow regime to be made that incorporate realistic magma particle size and flow geometries obtained directly from field measurements. One testable outcome relates to the origin of rhythmic layering where analytical results imply the sheared suspension intersects the phase space for particle Reynolds and Peclet number flow characteristic of macroscopic structures formation2. Another relates to potentially novel crystal-liquid segregation due to the formation of eddies locally at undulating contacts at the floor and roof of the intrusion. The eddies are transient and mechanical in origin, unrelated to well-known fluid dynamical effects around obstacles where flow is turbulent. Numerical particle tracing reveals that these low Re number eddies can both trap (remove) and eject particles back into the magma at a later time according to their mass density. This trapping mechanism has potential to develop local variations in structure (layering) and magma chemistry that may otherwise not occur where the contact between magma and country rock is linear. Simulations indicate that eddy formation is best developed where magma viscosity is in the range 1-102 Pa s. Higher viscosities (> 103 Pa s) tend to dampen the effect implying eddy development is most likely a transient feature. However, it is nice to think that something as simple as a bumpy contact could impart physical and by implication chemical diversity in igneous rocks.

1Marsh, D.B. (2004), A magmatic mush column Rosetta stone: the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarcica. EOS, 85, 497-502.

2Petford, N. (2009), Which Effective Viscosity? Mineralogical Magazine, 73, 167-191.

Fig. 1. Numerical simulation in the geometry showing magma flow field and eddy formation where circulating magma is trapped. Streamlines track particle orbits.