Patterns of Stress

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Science  15 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5524, pp. 1967
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5524.1967e

Many materials, when they cool or shrink, develop distinct but regular fracture patterns. These patterns are commonly observed in nature in the form of mud cracks, columnar jointing in basalt flows, or ice-wedge networks in frozen ground. The patterns may extend from a few centimeters across in mud cracks to hundreds of meters in length in ice-wedge networks.

Plug and Werner have developed a model of ice-wedge networks based on parameters that include the tensile stress associated with cooling, tensile strength, fracture depth, and a few other soil parameters. Fractures were placed sequentially on a lattice. Their model successfully reproduced the geometry and scale of observed ice-wedge networks, which implies that the patterns, at least in ice wedges, are dominated by stress interactions between individual ice wedges as they form. — BH

J. Geophys. Res. 106, 8599 (2001).

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