Thermal and mechanical aspects of magma emplacement in giant dike swarms
We consider the thermal history and dynamics of magma emplacement in giant feeder dikes associated with continental flood basalts. For driving pressure gradients inferred for giant dike swarms, thicknesses of <10 m would enable dikes to transport magma laterally over the distances observed in the field (up to thousands of kilometers) without suffering thermal lock-up. Using time-dependent numerical solutions for the thermal evolution of a dike channel under laminar and turbulent flow conditions in the presence of phase transitions, we investigate the possibility that the observed dike thicknesses (of the order of 100 m) result from thermal erosion of the country rocks during dike emplacement. This implies that the observed range of dike widths in giant dike swarms may reflect variations in the source volume and not the excess magma pressure. It is found that the total volume of intruded magma required to produce an order of magnitude increase in dike width via wall rock melting broadly agrees with the estimated volumes of individual flows in continental flood basalts. The presence of chilled margins and apparently low crustal contamination characteristics of some giant dikes may be consistent with turbulent magma flow and extensive melt back during dike emplacement. In this case, measurements of the anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility most likely indicate magma flow directions during the final stages of dike intrusion. Shear stresses generated at the dike wall when the dike starts to freeze strongly decrease with increasing dike width, which implies that thicker dikes may have less tendency to produce consistent fabric alignment. Our results suggest that if the dike was propagating downslope off a plume-related topographic swell, the mechanism responsible for flow termination could possibly have been related to underpressurization and collapse (implosion) of the shallow magma plumbing system feeding the intrusion. Radial dikes that erupted at the periphery of the topographic uplift might have increased (rather than decreased) extensional stresses in the crust within the topographic uplift upon their solidification.