The Role of Magma Overpressure in Suppressing Earthquakes and Topography: Worldwide Examples

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Science  20 Sep 1991:
Vol. 253, Issue 5026, pp. 1399-1402
DOI: 10.1126/science.253.5026.1399


In an extending terrane basaltic magma supplied at a pressure greater than the least principal stress (overpressure) may be capable of suppressing normal faulting and the earthquakes and topographic relief that commonly accompany normal faulting. As vertical dikes intrude, they press against their walls in the direction opposite the least principal stress and increase its magnitude. The emplacement of tabular intrusions causes the internal magma pressure to act selectively in opposition to tectonic stresses. This process tends to equalize the stresses and thus diminishes the deviatoric stress (difference between maximum and minimum stresses) that creates faults and causes earthquakes. Observations of the pattern of seismicity and magmatism worldwide indicate that magmatism commonly supplants large earthquakes as the primary mechanism for accommodating tectonic extension. Recognizing the extent of magmatic stress accommodation is important in assessing seismic and volcanic risks.