Hydrotectonics; principles and relevance

Open-File Report 82-307




Hydrotectonics combines the principles of hydraulics and rock mechanics. The hypothesis assumes that: (1) no faults are truly planar, (2) opposing noncongruent wavy wallrock surfaces form chambers and bottlenecks along the fault, and (3) most thrusting occurs beneath the water table. These physical constraints permit the following dynamics. Shear displacement accompanying faulting must constantly change the volume of each chamber. Addition of ground water liquefies dry fault breccia to a heavy incompressible viscous muddy breccia I call fault slurry. When the volume of a chamber along a thrust fault decreases faster than its fault slurry can escape laterally, overpressurized slurry is hydraulically injected into the base of near-vertical fractures in the otherwise impervious overriding plate. Breccia pipes commonly form where such fissures intersect. Alternating decrease and increase in volume of the chamber subjects this injection slurry to reversible surges that not only raft and abrade huge clasts sporadically spalled from the walls of the conduit but also act as a forceful hydraulic ram which periodically widens the conduit and extends its top. If the pipe perforates a petroleum reservoir, leaking hydrocarbons float to its top. Sudden faulting may generate a powerful water hammer that can be amplified at some distal narrow ends of the anastomosing plumbing system, where the shock may produce shatter cones. If vented on the Earth's surface, the muddy breccia, now called extrusion slurry, forms a mud volcano. This hypothesis suggests that many highly disturbed features presently attributed to such catastrophic processes as subsurface explosions or meteorite impacts are due to the rheology of tectonic slurry in an intermittently reactivated pressure-relief tube rooted in a powerful reciprocating hydrotectonic pump activated by a long-lived deep-seated thrust fault.

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Hydrotectonics; principles and relevance
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
30 p., ill. ;28 cm.