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Dike transport of granitoid magmas

Nick Petford, Ross C. Kerr and John R. Lister

Geology 1993;21;845-848
doi: 10.1130/0091-7613(1993)021<0845:DTOGM>2.3.CO;2

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Dike transport of granitoid magmas

Nick Petford Department of Earth Sciences, University of Liverpool, P.O. Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, England
Ross C. Kerr Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, GPO Box 4, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
John R. Lister Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of
Cambridge, Silver Street, Cambridge CB3 9EW, England

ABSTRACT required for magmatic ascent. Motivated by the efficiency of dike

Thermal andfluid-dynamicalanalyses suggest that for viscosities transport for these magmas on both fluid-dynamical and thermal
and density contrasts spanning the range considered typical for many grounds, we used granitoid examples with well-determined petrol-
calc-alkalic granitoids, dike ascent is a viable mechanism for the trans- ogy and tectonic environments to estimate the range of minimum
port of large volumes of granitoid melt through the continental crust. dike widths that may be found in Cordilleran and magmatic arc
We present calculations showing that a granitoid melt with calculated settings.
viscosity of the order of 10 Pa s and a density contrast between
magma and crust of 200 kg/m3 can be transported 30 km through the JUSTIFICATION FOR DIKE-FLOW ASCENT
crust in ~ 1 month, corresponding to a mean ascent velocity of 1 cm/s. The established idea that granitoid magmas ascend through the
Using analysis modified from numerical studies of the flow of basaltic continental crust as diapirs is being increasingly questioned by ig-
magmas in dikes, we also present an expression that allows the cal- neous and structural geologists. In particular, many of those bodies
culation of the critical (minimum) dike or fault width required for that were once considered classic diapirs, such as the Ardara,
granitic magma to ascend without freezing. For all reasonable esti- Criffel, and Chindamora plutons, have been reinterpreted as bal-
mates of Cordilleran granitoid viscosity and density contrast, the crit- looning plutons whose geometries are not controlled by ascent but
ical dike width is determined to be between ~ 2 and 7 m. Calculated by emplacement (Holder, 1979; Courrioux, 1987; Ramsay, 1989; see
peak batholith-flling rates are orders of magnitude greater than mean also Bateman, 1985). Cordilleran batholiths exposed in the Andes
cavity-opening rates based on estimated fault slippage, which is con- are typically elongate bodies found in close spatial and temporal
sistent with chemical evidence for intermittent supply of magma association with large-scale faults and crustal lineaments, them-
pulses. selves parallel with the continental margin and the trench. This first-
order relation has led many authors to conclude that the faults them-
INTRODUCTION selves are responsible not only for controlling magma emplacement
To say that granitoids make up a significant part of the upper- but ascent as well (Pitcher, 1979; Cobbing et al., 1981; Petford and
middle continental crust at active plate margins is almost a clich. Atherton, 1992). The recent literature contains many examples of
The vast Mesozoic-Cenozoic batholiths that lie along the western fault-controlled models of granite emplacement (e.g., Hutton, 1982,
continental margin of North and South America contribute signifi- 1988; Guineberteau et al., 1987; Reavy, 1989), and many acknowl-
cantly to the total crustal volume in these regions. Many also contain edge implicitly the role of faults, fractures, or shear zones in magma
a large component of mantle-derived material, implying that these transport, during either extension or compression (e.g., Castro,
rocks are instrumental in crustal growth (e.g., DePaolo, 1981; Miller 1987; Bran et al., 1990; Schmidt et al., 1990; D'Lemos et al., 1992;
and Harris, 1989). Much progress has been made in recent years in Hutton, 1992). Although the possibility of diapirism as an ascent
understanding the origin of these rocks on chemical and isotopie mechanism is not totally excluded (Miller et al., 1988; England,
grounds (Pitcher et al., 1985; Anderson, 1990). In contrast, the phys- 1990), the pluton geometries, the lack of classic country-rock struc-
ical mechanisms that govern the ascent and emplacement of gran- tures such as rim synforms and symmetric high-strain zones in and
itoid magmas are much less well understood. around Andean batholiths, and the close proximity of the batholiths
Recent studies of granitoid emplacement in Cordilleran and to major faults together suggest that diapiric ascent was not the
magmatic arc settings have emphasized the important role played by transport mechanism in these instances. Because of the close asso-
regional-scale tectonics, especially strike-slip fault systems, in cre- ciation of these rocks with major fault systems, it seems reasonable
ating space for batholithic magmas in the upper crust through the to assume that these long-lived crustal discontinuities have been
generation of tension cracks and dilational jogs (Glazner, 1991; Pet- periodically used by batholith magmas (Pitcher, 1979).
ford and Atherton, 1992; Tikoff and Teyssier, 1992). It is implicit in Most recently, Clemens and Mawer (1992) have proposed a
these models that magmatic ascent, as well as emplacement, is fun- mechanism for granitoid magma transport involving fracture prop-
damentally controlled by the same fault systems, which act as con- agation. In this model, based on earlier work by Cook and Gordon
duits by channeling large volumes of granitic magma through the (1964) and Pollard (1977), magmas themselves generate the tensile
crust. Because batholithic magmatism is a principal means of crustal stress conditions in the crust necessary for their ascent. Faults and
differentiation (Silver and Chappell, 1988), reasonable estimates of shear zones are important as mechanisms for controlling the em-
the time scales over which ascent and emplacement operate are placement of granitoid magmas, but only if they are first intersected
crucial to our wider understanding of the geodynamic evolution of by a self-propagating dike. We take a slightly different and mechan-
active continental margins. ically more simplistic view here by assuming that the deeply pene-
In this paper, we focus on the role of dikes in transporting trating faults and lineaments themselves act as feeder dikes.
granitoid magmas from their lower crustal-upper mantle source re-
gions to their final level of emplacement. We take as an example a CORDILLERA BLANCA BATHOLITH
typical Cordilleran batholith from the Peruvian Andes that is rela- To estimate the effectiveness of dike-controlled magmatic as-
tively well understood in terms of field geology and general tectonic cent at active plate margins, we take as an example the Cordillera
setting. Viscosity and density values for these rocks, estimated from Blanca batholith, northwest Peru (Fig. 1). The batholith, composed
major element data, are combined with geophysical measurements mainly of leucogranodiorite (Egeler and DeBooy, 1956; Atherton
of the crustal column beneath the batholith to estimate the time and Sanderson, 1987), lies over the thickened crustal keel of the

GEOLOGY, v. 21, p. 845-848, September 1993 845

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1.5 wt% H z O estimated from the analyses. The same data were used
to calculate a mean magmatic density p of 2600 kg/m3 (Bottinga et
al., 1983). Geophysical seismic and gravity surveys have been used
to model a three-layered crustal structure beneath central Peru with
a mean density of 2800 kg/m3 (James, 1971; Couch et al., 1981),
which gives a mean density contrast between magma and country
rock of 200 kg/m3. The chosen value of 30 km for the dike length that
we used in this study is in keeping with the observation of Miller et
al. (1988) that granitoid magmas commonly traverse most of the
continental crust; the value is also consistent with recent geochem-
ical evidence implying a deep crustal source for the batholith mag-
mas (Atherton and Petford, 1993).

Given the above physical properties, we now consider thermal
effects during the ascent of granites. The solidification or melting of
a buoyant magma during laminar flow in a dike of length H and
uniform initial width w is controlled by three dimensionless param-
eters (Bruce, 1989; Bruce and Huppert, 1989, 1990). The first

B=gL9w%*H, (1)

represents the ratio of advection of heat by the flow to conduction

of heat into the walls, where the gravitational acceleration g = 9.8
m/s2, Ap is the difference in density between the magma and the
crust, K = 8 x 10~3 cm2/s is the thermal diffusivity, and p, is the
magmatic viscosity. The other two parameters are Stefan numbers:
= L/c(Tw - Tx)
Figure 1. Geologic sketch map of Andean Cordillera In northern-central and (2)
Peru showing Cordillera Blanca batholith and associated fault complex
(from Atherton and Petford, 1993). Sm = L/c(Tm Tw),
where L is the latent heat of solidification, c is the specific heat,
Andes (James, 1971), which reaches depths of nearly 70 km in this is the far-field temperature of the crust, Tm is the initial magmatic
region. K-Ar and Ar-Ar analyses have given mineral cooling dates temperature, and Tw is the temperature at which magma near the
between 6 and 3.0 Ma for the central region of the intrusion (Wil- dike wall is immobile and effectively frozen. Detailed analysis
son, 1975; Petford, 1990), which would make the Cordillera Blanca (Bruce, 1989) has shown that the thermal evolution of the flow can
one of the youngest known batholiths exposed in the Andes. The be predicted by the single parameter \ = BSlJS^. If \ is less than a
intrusion is over 150 km long and up to 20 km wide, with a vertical critical value, then the dike will freeze before it has time to transport
relief of 2 km in the most deeply eroded glacial valleys. A spectac- a significant volume of magma; if X is greater than this value, then
ular feature of the batholith is that the entire western margin abuts the dike will remain open until the supply is exhausted and flow
and is strongly deformed by the Cordillera Blanca fault complex, a ceases. Using this result and the numerical calculations by Bruce
major tectonic lineament believed to have been active since the Ju- and Huppert (1989, 1990) for basaltic magmas, it can be shown that
rassic (Cobbing et al., 1981). Deformation fabrics in the batholith the critical dike width wc required to transport granitic melt through
suggest that emplacement occurred over the crystallization interval, the crust is estimated as follows:
during a period of active extensional faulting with a component of
right-lateral strike-slip motion (Petford and Atherton, 1992). The w c = 1.5(SAb 3 / 4 (|XK///sA P ) 1 / 4 . (3)
strongly asymmetric synmagmatic and postmagmatic deformation
along the western fault-bounded flank of the batholith was taken by RESULTS
Petford and Atherton (1992) as evidence that the fault system also
The critical dike width is shown in Figure 2 for a range in values
played a major role in magmatic ascent and emplacement.
of p, and Ap, based on the following: dike length H = 30 km, latent
heatZ, = 300 J/g, specific heat c = 1.2J - 1 -C _ 1 , and initial, freezing,
PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF MAGMA AND CRUST and far-field temperatures Tm = 900 C, 7W = 750 C, and =
To model the ascent of the batholith magmas it is first necessary 400 C, respectively. The shaded region represents the range of Ap
to estimate two physical properties, viscosity and density, that to- values likely to be found during granitoid ascent in typical crustal
gether fundamentally control magmatic ascent rates. Typical den- conditions. For granitoid magmas with a wide viscosity range of
sities of calc-alkalic magmas range from ~2700 to 2400 kg/m3, and 104-108 Pa-s, the critical dike width is well constrained to a range of
estimated melt viscosities are ~104-108 Pa-s (Carmichael et al., 2-20 m. The tightness of this constraint is due to the weak depen-
1974; McBirney, 1984). Following the method described by Shaw dence of wc on the viscosity and density difference in equation 3. As
(1972), we used the average of 33 whole-rock analyses covering a a result, predictions of the critical dike width are robust. Figure 2
range in Si0 2 of 70-73 wt% to estimate a mean magmatic viscosity also includes data for several tonalitic to granodioritic plutons from
p, of ~8 x 10s Pa-s for the Cordillera Blanca leucogranodiorites. This the Cordilleran and magmatic arcs of the Andes and western United
value was calculated by assuming a crystal-free melt at 900 C with States. For comparison, a two-mica leucogranite from the Karako-

846 GEOLOGY, September 1993

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Figure 2. Contours of
critical dike width wc re-
quired for magma ascent Figure 3. Contours of
without freezing, calcu- critical dike width (in me-
lated with equation 3 and tres) as function of mag-
parameter values In text, matic superheat Tm - Tw
as a function of the den- and undercooling T -
sity contrast Ap between for magmatic viscos-
magma and country rock ity of 10 6 Pa-s and Ap
and the magmatic vis- of 200 kg/m 3 . CBB de-
cosity p.. Shaded region notes Cordillera Blanca
shows range In density batholith.
contrast (100-300 kg/m3)
likely to be found by gra-
nitic magma under ana- X
| (Pa-s)
tectic conditions in mid-
dle to lower continental crust. CBBCordillera Blanca batholith (Petford,
1990); PRD1, PRD2 Puscao ring dikes, Peru (Bussell, 1988); CTG continued to feed the batholith for 6 months after supply had
central Chilean Tertiary granitoids (Lopez-Escobar et al., 1979); WPRB
ceased and before it finally solidified.
average western Peninsular Ranges batholith (Silver and Chappell, 1988;
Couch and Riddihough, 1989); GTSGreat Tonalfte Sill, Alaska (Roddick, It is worth emphasizing here that dikes, once they begin to
1983); MGGMount Givens Granodiorite, Sierra Nevada (Bateman and form, cannot close completely from the bottom upward because it is
Nokleburg, 1978; Dodge and Bateman, 1988); BBBaltoro batholith impossible to expel viscous magma completely from a narrow gap
(Searle et al., 1992). (Lister and Kerr, 1991). Thus, the mechanism for the formation of
magma pulses suggested by Weertman (1971,1980), Takada (1990),
and Clemens and Mawer (1992) will not operate during magma trans-
ram Baltoro batholith (BB) is also included (Searle et al., 1992). port because it is essentially based on an inviscid theory. However,
Without exception, wc lies in the range 2-7 m for the Cordilleran and it is evident that many granitoids including the Cordillera Blanca
magmatic-arc granitoids. The Baltoro batholith, although driven by batholith do show a fine chemical structure that may reflect the
a relatively high density contrast, requires a larger width of 20 m incomplete mixing at the emplacement level of discrete magma
in order to counteract its significantly higher viscosity. From the batches or pulses. We propose that a more likely explanation for the
calculations we conclude that dike transport is a thermally viable pulsed nature of some granitoid intrusions is a decrease in the vol-
process for reasonable dike widths over a range of viscosities that ume of granitoid melt available for extraction from the source rocks.
encompasses most granitoid magmas. A progressive draining of the magma at the source will lead to a
In Figure 3, the critical dike width is shown for a range of values steady decrease in the dike width until its thickness becomes small
of the superheat Tm - Tw and undercooling Tw - Tm based on the enough for the magma to freeze. Melt may then accumulate in the
values of 106 Pa-s for magmatic viscosity and 200 kg/m3 for mean source until a new dike begins to form, either directly (Clemens and
crustal density difference, which maybe considered typical for most Mawer, 1992) or by large-scale tectonic motions. The volume of
Cordilleran granitoids. We see again that critical dike widths are in such pulses will thus be governed by the dynamics of the source
the range 2-20 m. supply rather than by the elastostatic theory of Weertman.
As a final point, we note that our calculated batholith filling
SPECIFIC CASE times of a few hundred years are many orders of magnitude less than
For the Cordillera Blanca batholith we take the mean crustal Ap total emplacement time scales based on the estimated slip rates (0.7
to be 200 kg/m3, the magmatic viscosity p, to be 8 X 10s Pa-s, and the cm/yr) believed to be applicable to some faults during granitoid em-
fault length H to be 30 km. We find from Figure 2 that the critical placement (Tikoff and Teyssier, 1992), consistent with the evidence
dike width is ~6 m. This width corresponds to a horizontally aver- for a pulsed supply.
aged velocity (Vav = gApw|/12 p,) of 1 cm/s, an ascent time for the
magma of about 41 days, and a time to fill the batholith (minimum ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Supported by a grant from the British Council (to Kerr) and by Royal
estimated volume Q = 6000 km3) by a dike of lateral extent I = 10 Society Research Fellowships (to Petford and Lister). We thank J. Clemens
km, and A. Glazner for helpful and constructive comments in reviews of the
Ai = Q/V^wJ, (4)
of 350 yr. Clearly, this time of active flow is likely to be divided into Anderson, J.L., 1990, editor, The nature and origin of Cordilleran magma-
a number of smaller events interspersed by periods of source re- tism: Geological Society of America Memoir 174, 414 p.
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848 Printed in U.S.A. GEOLOGY, September 1993