Convective instability of 3-D fluid-saturated geological fault zones heated from below

Chongbin Zhao, B. E. Hobbs, H. B. Mühlhaus, A. Ord, Ge Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We conduct a theoretical analysis to investigate the convective instability of 3-D fluid-saturated geological fault zones when they are heated uniformly from below. In particular, we have derived exact analytical solutions for the critical Rayleigh numbers of different convective flow structures. Using these critical Rayleigh numbers, three interesting convective flow structures have been identified in a geological fault zone system. It has been recognized that the critical Rayleigh numbers of the system have a minimum value only for the fault zone of infinite length, in which the corresponding convective flow structure is a 2-D slender-circle flow. However, if the length of the fault zone is finite, the convective flow in the system must be 3-D. Even if the length of the fault zone is finite, since the minimum critical Rayleigh number for the 2-D slender-circle flow structure is so close to that for the 3-D convective flow structure, the system may have almost the same chance to pick up the 3-D convective flow structures. Also, because the convection modes are so close for the 3-D convective flow structures, the convective flow may evolve into the 3-D finger-like structures, especially for the case of the fault thickness to height ratio approaching zero. This understanding demonstrates the beautiful aspects of the present analytical solution for the convective instability of 3-D geological fault zones, because the present analytical solution is valid for any value of the ratio of the fault height to thickness. Using the present analytical solution, the conditions, under which different convective flow structures may take place, can be easily determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-220
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Volume155
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes

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