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Using geologic structures to constrain constitutive laws not accessible in the laboratory

July 2, 2018

In this essay, we explore a central problem of structural geology today, and in the foreseeable future, which is the determination of constitutive laws governing rock deformation to produce geologic structures. Although laboratory experiments provide much needed data and insights about constitutive laws, these experiments cannot cover the range of conditions and compositions relevant to the formation of geologic structures. We advocate that structural geologists address this limitation by interpreting natural experiments, documented with field and microstructural data, using continuum mechanical models that enable the deduction of constitutive laws. To put this procedure into a historical context, we review the founding of structural geology by James Hutton in the late 18th century, and the seminal contributions to continuum mechanics from Newton to Cauchy that provide the tools to model geologic structures. The procedure is illustrated with two examples drawn from recent and on-going field investigations of crustal and mantle lithologies. We conclude by pointing to future research opportunities that will engage structural geologists in the pursuit of constitutive laws during the 21st century.

Publication Year 2018
Title Using geologic structures to constrain constitutive laws not accessible in the laboratory
DOI 10.1016/j.jsg.2018.06.006
Authors Johanna Nevitt, Jessica M. Warren, Kathryn M. Kumamoto, David D. Pollard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Structural Geology
Index ID 70197974
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center