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Heave, settlement and fracture of chalk during physical modelling experiments with temperature cycling above and below 0 °C

Abstract : To elucidate the early stages of heave, settlement and fracture of intact frost-susceptible rock by temperature cycling above and below 0 °C, two physical modelling experiments were performed on 10 rectangular blocks 450 mm high of fine-grained, soft limestone. One experiment simulated 21 cycles of bidirectional freezing (upward and downward) of an active layer above permafrost, and the other simulated 26 cycles of unidirectional freezing (downward) of a seasonally frozen bedrock in a non-permafrost region. Heave and settlement of the top of the blocks were monitored in relation to rock temperature and unfrozen water content, which ranged from almost dry to almost saturated.

In the bidirectional freezing experiment, heave of the wettest block initially occurred abruptly at the onset of freezing periods and gradually during thawing periods (summer heave). After the crossing of a threshold marked by the appearance of a macrocrack in the upper layer of permafrost, summer heave increased by an order of magnitude as segregated ice accumulated incrementally in macrocracks, interrupted episodically by abrupt settlement that coincided with unusually high air temperatures. In the unidirectional freezing experiment, the wet blocks heaved during freezing periods and settled during thawing periods, whereas the driest blocks showed the opposite behaviour. The two wettest blocks settled progressively during the first 15 freeze-thaw cycles, before starting to heave progressively as macrocracks developed.

Four processes, operating singly or in combination in the blocks account for their heave and settlement: (1) thermal expansion and contraction caused heave and settlement when little or no water-ice phase change was involved; (2) volumetric expansion of water freezing in situ caused short bursts of heave of the outer millimetres of wet rock; (3) ice segregation deeper in the blocks caused sustained heave during thawing and freezing periods; and (4) freeze-thaw cycling caused consolidation and settlement of wet blocks prior to macrocracking in the unidirectional freezing experiment. Rock fracture developed by growth of segregated ice in microcracks and macrocracks at depths determined by the freezing regime. Overall, the heave, settlement and fracture behaviour of the limestone is similar to that of frost-susceptible soil.

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Submitted on : Thursday, June 2, 2022 - 3:27:32 PM
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Julian B. Murton, Jean-Claude Ozouf, Rorik Peterson. Heave, settlement and fracture of chalk during physical modelling experiments with temperature cycling above and below 0 °C. Geomorphology, Elsevier, 2016, 270, pp.71-87. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.07.016⟩. ⟨insu-03686175⟩



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