The strengths of rocks clearly place an upper limit on the stress that can be sustained by the upper half of the lithosphere. Laboratory data on rock rheology are generally lacking at intermediate temperatures and pressures on the important rock types expected in the lithosphere, so a definitive accounting of the strength distribution with depth in the upper lithosphere is presently unattainable. Analogies are drawn between the fragmentary strength data on slicates at intermediate temperature and the more extensive experimental data on marble and limestone, and several tentative conclusions are drawn: First, brittle processes, such as faulting and cataclasis, are expected to control rock strength at low pressures and temperatures. The strengths associated with these brittle mechanisms increase rapidly with increasing effective pressure and are relatively insensitive to temperature and strain rate. Second, the transitions between brittle and ductile processes occur at critical values of the least principal stress sigma3. I suggest that the concept of the deformation mechanism map of Ashby (1972) be extended to brittle-ductile transitions by normalizing the applied differential stress sigma by sigma3, i.e., the transitions occur at critical values of sigma/sigma3. -from Author
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Tectonic stresses in the lithosphere: constraints provided by the experimental deformation of rocks.