The building blocks of igneous sheet intrusions: Insights from 3-D seismic reflection data

Jonas Köpping, Craig Magee, Alexander R. Cruden, Christopher A.L. Jackson, James R. Norcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The propagating margins of igneous sills (and other sheet intrusions) may divide into laterally and/or vertically separated sections, which later inflate and coalesce. These components elongate parallel to and thus record the magma flow direction, and they can form either due to fracture segmentation (i.e., “segments”) or brittle and/or non-brittle deformation of the host rock (i.e., “magma fingers”). Seismic reflection data can image entire sills or sill-complexes in 3-D, and their resolution is often sufficient to allow us to identify these distinct elongate components and thereby map magma flow patterns over entire intrusion networks. However, seismic resolution is limited, so we typically cannot discern the centimeter- to meter-scale host rock deformation structures that would allow the origin of these components to be interpreted. Here, we introduce a new term that defines the components (i.e., “elements”) of sheet-like igneous intrusions without linking their description to emplacement mechanisms. Using 3-D seismic reflection data from offshore NW Australia, we quantify the 3-D geometry of these elements and their connectors within two sills and discuss how their shape may relate to emplacement processes. Based on seismic attribute analyses and our measurements of their 3-D geometry, we conclude that the mapped elements likely formed through non-elastic-brittle and/or non-brittle deformation ahead of the advancing sill tip, which implies they are magma fingers. We show that thickness varies across sills, and across distinct elements, which we infer to represent flow localization and subsequent thickening of restricted areas. The quantification of element geometries is useful for comparisons between different subsurface and field-based data sets that span a range of host rock types and tectonic settings. This, in turn, facilitates the testing of magma emplacement mechanisms and predictions from numerical and physical analogue experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-182
Number of pages27
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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