Mechanical controls on fluid flow during regional metamorphism: Some numerical models

A. Ord, N. H.S. Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


The control of fluid flow by plastic deformation during metamorphism is critical to our understanding of metamorphic processes. Various geological observations and field studies demonstrate the consequences of fluid flow control by deformation, so that the concept appears to be accepted, at least for small-scale systems (for example faults and vein systems). However, the concept appears to be less well recognized at regional scales. Considered here are examples of simple, conceptual models based on fully coupled mechanical-fluid flow concepts; they include deformation of a section of fluid-saturated crust containing a block or a layer of material of different properties from its surrounds. In particular, rheological and permeability contrasts between rock types during deformation associated with regional metamorphism are sufficient to control the form of fluid flow over the range of a few kilometres. Low contrasts and small strains allow pervasive fluid flow, whereas greater contrasts and increasing strains cause focusing of the flow Such focusing is generally associated with localization of the deformation, especially for a strongly dilatant elastic-plastic material. However, a rate of fluid flow much greater than the rate of deformation may result in pervasive flow, although for most models pervasive flow is difficult to attain over regional distances. Furthermore, lateral and downward fluid flow may occur, demonstrated here by simple models for folding and for deformation of regions containing plutons. Therefore, such modelling may be used as a means of testing the various hypotheses concerning the volumes of fluid predicted to have passed through some rock volumes. Numerical models of the future will become increasingly complex and powerful, allowing greater coupling of thermal, mechanical, chemical and fluid flow effects, and based more on the physical processes involved. Combined field and laboratory studies will provide correspondingly greater understanding and will permit the determination of the timing of fluid flow and structural controls on fluid flow patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-359
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


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