Magma ascent mechanisms in the transition regime from solitary porosity waves to diapirism

Dohmen, Janik; Schmeling, Harro

In partially molten regions inside the Earth, melt buoyancy may trigger upwelling of both solid and fluid phases, i.e., diapirism. If the melt is allowed to move separately with respect to the matrix, melt perturbations may evolve into solitary porosity waves. While diapirs may form on a wide range of scales, porosity waves are restricted to sizes of a few times the compaction length. Thus, the size of a partially molten perturbation in terms of compaction length controls whether material is dominantly transported by porosity waves or by diapirism. We study the transition from diapiric rise to solitary porosity waves by solving the two-phase flow equations of conservation of mass and momentum in 2D with porosity-dependent matrix viscosity. We systematically vary the initial size of a porosity perturbation from 1.8 to 120 times the compaction length.

If the perturbation is of the order of a few compaction lengths, a single solitary wave will emerge, either with a positive or negative vertical matrix flux. If melt is not allowed to move separately to the matrix a diapir will emerge. In between these end members we observe a regime where the partially molten perturbation will split up into numerous solitary waves, whose phase velocity is so low compared to the Stokes velocity that the whole swarm of waves will ascend jointly as a diapir, just slowly elongating due to a higher amplitude main solitary wave.

Only if the melt is not allowed to move separately to the matrix will no solitary waves build up, but as soon as two-phase flow is enabled solitary waves will eventually emerge. The required time to build them up increases nonlinearly with the perturbation radius in terms of compaction length and might be too long to allow for them in nature in many cases.

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Dohmen, Janik / Schmeling, Harro: Magma ascent mechanisms in the transition regime from solitary porosity waves to diapirism. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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