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A likely-universal model of fracture density and scaling justified by both data and theory. Consequences for crustal hydro-mechanics

Abstract : We discuss the parameters that control fracture density on the Earth. We argue that most of fracture systems are spatially organized according to two main regimes. The smallest fractures can grow independently of each others, defining a "dilute" regime controlled by nuclei occurrence rate and individual fracture growth law. Above a certain length, fractures stop growing due to mechanical interactions between fractures. For this "dense" regime, we derive the fracture density distribution by acknowledging that, statistically, fractures do not cross a larger one. This very crude rule, which expresses the inhibiting role of large fractures against smaller ones but not the reverse, actually appears be a very strong control on the eventual fracture density distribution since it results in a self-similar distribution whose exponents and density term are fully determined by the fractal dimension D and a dimensionless parameter γ that encompasses the details of fracture correlations and orientations. The range of values for D and γ appears to be extremely limited, which makes this model quite universal. This theory is supported by quantitative data on either fault or joint networks. The transition between the dilute and dense regimes occurs at about a few tenths of kilometers for faults systems, and a few meters for joints. This remarkable difference between both processes is likely due to a large-scale control (localization) of the fracture growth for faulting that does not exist for jointing. Finally, we discuss the consequences of this model on both flow and mechanical properties. In the dense regime, networks appears to be very close to a critical state.
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Contributor : Isabelle Dubigeon <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 1:57:48 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - 5:04:12 PM


  • HAL Id : insu-00672966, version 1



Philippe Davy, Caroline Darcel, Romain Le Goc, Olivier Bour. A likely-universal model of fracture density and scaling justified by both data and theory. Consequences for crustal hydro-mechanics. AGU Fall Meeting 2011, Dec 2011, San Francisco, Californie, United States. pp.H11I-03. ⟨insu-00672966⟩



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