13.1 Stress and also Strain

Plate collisions and the collected weight of overlying rocks exert pressures on rocks at depth. When the dimension of the pressure is important, it additionally matters even if it is the force is spread over a large region, or tightly focused on a small area. The same pressure will have a greater impact when exhilaration over a small area than as soon as acting over a larger area. If girlfriend have ever used snowshoes come walk throughout a snow bank without sinking in, you have taken benefit of the impacts of distributing pressure (your mass acted top top by gravity) over a wider area (the area of your snowshoes fairly than the soles of your boots). Stress is force adjusted for the area over which that is distributed. Strain is the adjust in form that happens when rocks space deformed by stress.

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Types of Stress

Stresses autumn into two categories: normal stress plot at right angles to a surface, and shear stress action parallel come a surface (Figure 13.2). Normal stress is subdivided into compression, as soon as the stresses are squeezing a rock, and tension, when stress is pulling it apart. Rocks experience compression in areas where plates room colliding, or where they space being buried beneath various other rocks. Rocks experience stress where aberration is happening, together as as soon as a continent is beginning the rifting process. Shear stress and anxiety is characteristic of transform plate boundaries, where plates are relocating side through side.

Figure 13.2 Rocks can be impacted by normal tension (compression and also tension) or shear stress. Source: Karla Panchuk (2016) CC by 4.0

Although figure 13.2 shows only one set of stress arrows for each scenario, rocks in ~ the earth are topic to tension from every directions. The relative size that the stresses in various directions will determine the solution of the rock. Consider a deeply buried rock being extended as a continent breaks apart (Figure 13.3). That is additionally being compressed through the weight of overlying sediments and also rocks, yet the stress from compression is fairly small compared to the tension from rifting. The net impact of anxiety acting ~ above the rock will certainly be determined much more by the stress and anxiety from rifting than by the compression indigenous overlying rocks.

Figure 13.3 A absent layer (dark brown) is compressed through the weight of rocks above, and also stretched by rifting. The size of the arrows indicate the loved one sizes the the stresses. Source: Karla Panchuk (2018) CC by 4.0

Rocks experience anxiety from all directions, yet it is possible to failure stresses into three directions, just like a graph with x, y, and also z axes. In diagrams showing these 3 directions, the sizes of arrows representing every direction will suggest the relative size that stresses, together they execute in figure 13.3. Assessing stress in this means makes that much less complicated to describe the stresses operation on a rock, and to know what their net effect will be.

Types of Strain

How a rock responds to stress depends on plenty of factors. The “how” is not simply a matter of how much strain a rock will certainly undergo, but what type that strain will certainly occur. Is the deformation irreversible or temporary? walk the absent break or does it deform there is no breaking?

Elastic Strain

Elastic strain is reversible strain. You deserve to think that elastic strain together what happens to the elastic waistband of her favourite sweatpants as soon as you placed them on. The elastic stretches to permit you right into your pants, and also once you’re in them, that shrinks to save them native falling down. Once you take it the pants off again, the elastic goes earlier to its original shape. Similarly, rocks experience elastic strain will certainly snap ago to their initial shape as soon as the anxiety is removed. Rocks snapping earlier to their initial shape undergo elastic rebound. Elastic cant of rocks ~ above a big scale have the right to have profound consequences, due to the fact that the power released causes the earth to vibrate. We experience those vibrations together earthquakes.

Plastic Strain

If sufficient stress is applied, the alters that a product undergoes to accommodate the anxiety will leave it permanently deformed. Once the anxiety is removed, the product does no go earlier to its initial shape. The permanent deformation is dubbed plastic strain.

Ductile or Brittle?

Ductile deformation refers to deformation that happens by flow or stretching. The marble monument in number 13.4 is undergoing ductile deformation together it sags in ~ its own weight.

Figure 13.4 A marble monument in ~ the Westminster Hall and also Burying soil in Baltimore, Maryland. The horizontal surface ar is undergoing slow-moving ductile deformation together it sags in ~ its very own weight. The writer Edgar Allan Poe is interred nearby. Source: ray Pennisi (2007) CC BY-NC 2.0 check out source

When a material breaks, it has actually undergone brittle deformation (Figure 13.5). The rock cylinders in figure 13.5 are part of an experiment to check the toughness of the rock. The cylinder ~ above the right looked favor the cylinder on the left prior to it to be compressed, v force used to the top and bottom. Strain gauges have actually been glued on to measure up the amount of deformation lengthwise and across the cylinders.

Figure 13.5 Cylinders of rock provided to test the toughness of rock under compression. The cylinder ~ above the left has been equipped v strain gauges to measure the lot of deformation. The cylinder ~ above the right has actually undergone brittle deformation after being compressed. Source: Karla Panchuk (2016) CC by 4.0

A material have the right to undergo an ext than one sort of deformation once stress is applied. The barrel-shaped cylinder the potash in number 13.6 (right) initially looked choose the cylinder top top the left. The cylinder was compressed, through stress used from the top and bottom. Initially, it underwent ductile deformation and also thickened in the middle, producing the barrel shape. However as much more stress was applied, the cylinder ultimately underwent brittle deformation, bring about the crack across the middle.

Figure 13.6 Cylinders of potash before and also after deformation. The potash underwent ductile deformation before it lastly broke. Source: Karla Panchuk (2018) CC by 4.0Factors the Determine just how A Rock will Deform

A rock is not minimal to specifically brittle deformation, or solely ductile deformation. Also the deformed rock in figure 13.5, i m sorry has plainly undergone brittle deformation, shows a slight curvature on the ideal side, close to the top. This shows that a small amount the ductile deformation emerged before brittle failure.

For a provided rock, deformation will be different depending on the lot of tension applied. As much as a point, rocks undergo elastic deformation, and will spring ago to their initial shape after the stress is removed. If much more stress is applied, the rock may deform in a ductile manner. If stress increases further, the rock may fracture. The lot of stress compelled in each instance will count on the type of rock, and conditions such as pressure and also temperature.


In general, sedimentary rocks will be much more likely to experience ductile deformation 보다 igneous or metamorphic rocks under the very same conditions. Rocks within each group will likewise deform differently.

Boudinage frameworks (Figure 13.7) to mark the effect of ingredient on just how rocks deform. This structures take place when a stronger rock much more prone to brittle deformation is surrounded by weaker rocks susceptible to ductile deformation. The more powerful rock will certainly fracture into segments, dubbed boudins, and also the weaker rock will circulation into the spaces between. In figure 13.7 (top), the white layer got to the stage of pinching off, just before separating into segments. The neighboring black great flowed in to to fill the space where the pinch was happening. Remarkably, the white great itself has a dark layer the has fragmentized into boudins. Not all boudins break right into blocky segments. Part display much more ductile deformation (Figure 13.7, bottom).

Figure 13.7 Two instances of boudinage structure. Top- The white layer has actually pinched off right into segments, and also the surrounding black layers have flowed into the gap forming in between segments. Within the white class is a thinner black color layer the has additionally broken into segments. Bottom- Boudins displaying ductile deformation. Source: Top- Marek Cichanski (2012) CC BY-NC 2.0 check out source. Bottom- Joyce McBeth (n.d.) CC by 4.0

Temperature and also Pressure

At greater temperatures, and under greater confining pressures, rocks are much more likely to experience ductile deformation. Confining pressure is the tension that a material experiences uniformly from every sides as a result of the weight of material above and approximately it. The pressure that a diver feeling deep in the s is confining pressure as result of the weight of water above and approximately the diver. This type of confining pressure is referred to as hydrostatic pressure. Within Earth, the confining press is due to the load of overlying rocks. Confining pressure as result of the weight of rocks is dubbed lithostatic pressure.

The rocks in figures 13.5 and 13.6 knowledgeable confining push from the atmosphere, and temperatures comfortable because that the humans working in the lab. Under those conditions the rocks eventually underwent brittle failure as soon as they were compressed in the lab. Deep in ~ the crust, the temperatures and also confining pressure are much greater. Deep enough within the crust, both samples would undergo only ductile deformation if the same amount of stress and anxiety were applied as in the experiment. The depth in ~ which temperatures and also confining pressures room high enough for rocks to go from brittle deformation to ductile deformation is referred to as the brittle-ductile change zone.

The brittle-ductile change zone wake up between about 10 km and also 30 km depth, matching to temperatures around 300 ºC and also greater. The depth in ~ which temperatures with 300 ºC in ~ any specific location will count on heat flow at the location. In continent crust, rocks in ~ 300 ºC space deeper 보다 in s crust. The readjust in pressure with depth likewise varies, relying on the mass and also density that rocks. If depths are measured loved one to sea level, the push at 10 km measured beneath a tall mountain belt will be better than the press at 10 km measured within s crust.

Experiments choose those presented in figures 13.5 and 13.6 deserve to be offered to determine where the brittle-ductile transition zone will be because that a specific rock type. Experimenters apply stress come sample of a rock for a variety of temperatures and also confining pressures. They note the problems under i m sorry the rock breaks or deforms in a ductile manner, and plot those top top a graph (Figure 13.8). The outcomes in figure 13.8 are from experiment on limestone. The vertical axis is pressure. The more pressure, the depth the rock would need to be in ~ the planet to suffer that pressure. The white heat represents the brittle-ductile change zone. Above the white line are pressures and also temperatures under i m sorry the limestone would fracture. Below the white line in the tan area room pressures and temperatures wherein the limestone would certainly deform by flowing. An alert that the higher the temperatures, the much less confining pressure is compelled for ductile deformation.

Figure 13.8 experimental results top top limestone with tension applied (left) and also compression applied (right). Source: Karla Panchuk (2018) CC by 4.0 modified ~ Heard (1960)

How stress Is Applied

The limestone experiments were performed by using stress as stress and anxiety (Figure 13.8 left) and again by applying stress as compression (right). Once tension to be applied, temperature and confining pressure had actually to be much greater before ductile deformation occurred. Under compression, ductile deformation was feasible with much less confining pressure, and at reduced temperatures.

Strain rate, the price at i beg your pardon deformation occurs, additionally makes a difference. If anxiety is used at a price that reasons rapid deformation, the rock will be more likely come fracture than if deformation happens slowly. The marble slab in figure 13.4 is a good example the this. It has sagged fairly than broken because the price of deformation has been very slow, in ~ millimetres per decade.


When rocks space under pressure, fluids trapped in ~ the pore spaces of rocks- the gaps in between grains- are also under pressure. Greater confining press is compelled for deformation to be ductile fairly than brittle, however pressure native fluids, called pore pressure, resists the confining pressure. The an outcome is that the effective confining pressure is lower than it would certainly be there is no the fluids. Depending on the lot of sharp pressure, and how nearby the absent is to the brittle-ductile transition zone, pore pressure could reason brittle fail in a absent that would certainly otherwise experience ductile deformation.

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Stress and also Geological Structures

Many different geologic structures can kind when anxiety is used to rocks. Structures kind as a an outcome of fracturing, tilting, folding, stretching, and squeezing (Figure 13.9). Some structures, favor the fractures that make basalt columns (Figure 13.9, top left), occur when rocks shrink due to cooling, yet others space a consequence of key tectonic forces. The species of structures that form depend top top the plate tectonic setup and other geological conditions, do them an important tools for knowledge what occurred to the rocks. The complying with sections deal with the various kinds of structures that form, and what info we have the right to gather from these structures to learn more about the tectonic atmosphere and local geology.

Figure 13.9 frameworks resulting native deformation. Top left- Fracturing in basalt near Whistler, brother Columbia. Top right- Tilting that sedimentary rock near Exshaw, Alberta. Lower left- stretched limestone (light grey) and also chert (dark grey) native Quadra Island, brother Columbia. Lower right- Faulted shale near Cache Creek, brothers Columbia. Rocks over the fault moved up relative to those below. Source: Karla Panchuk (2018) CC by 4.0. Photographs by Steven Earle (2015) CC by 4.0 check out sourceReferences

Heard, H. C. (1960). Shift from Brittle Fracture to Ductile circulation in Solenhofen Limestone as a role of Temperature, Confining Pressure, and also Interstitial fluid Pressure. In D. Griggs & D. Handin (Eds.), Rock Deformation (A Symposium): Geological society of America Memoir 79 (pp. 193-226). Https://doi.org/10.1130/MEM79