Solidification Contraction: Another Approach to Cumulus Processes and the Origin of Igneous Layering

  • Jon Steen Petersen
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASIC, volume 196)


The transformation from liquid to solid state involves a relative decrease in volume of 6–10% for most silicate melts. This contraction leads to melt percolation when occurring in a rigid, partially solidified crystal pile. Fluid flow is directed towards the most solidified portion where the pressure drop due to shrinkage is greater. The percolation velocity depends on the depth of the pile; at the top of the pile liquid is dragged rapidly past the crystals due to accumulated contraction in the underlying column and leads to growth of predominantly refractory compositions (adcumulates). At the base of the pile melt displacement is minimal and growth of more fractionated phases occurs (orthocumulates). As solidification contraction leads to flow of solute enriched liquid in a direction opposite to the main growth, solute-rich liquids accumulate along the margins of the magma chamber, and give rise to a marginal, inverse compositional zonation. If the refractory growth sector at the front of the crystal pile seals off the underlying volume, a discontinuous fluid dynamic situation will develop, which prevents refractory crystal growth until precipitation of another crystal pile has reached sufficient height. This process can produce repeated layers of adcumulus to orthocumulus sequences with regular spacing, provided the crystal accretion and growth rate remain constant. As for metallic casting, solidification contraction holds the potential for explaining a vast majority of compositional effects associated with crystallization of magmas.


Magma Chamber Residual Liquid Layered Intrusion Solidification Contraction Contraction Flow 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Steen Petersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of AarhusAarhus CDenmark

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