Joint initiation in bedded clastic rocks

David T. McConaughy, Terry Engelder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Two general types of sedimentary structures serve as initiation points (IP) for cross-fold joints in siltstone beds of the Ithaca Formation, Appalachian Plateau, New York: Planar bed boundaries and geometrically complex features such as bedforms, trace fossils, and softsidement deformation structures. The relative abundance of each IP type varies with the stratigraphic position of the jointed body. When they are mechanically isolated by thicker shales, siltstone bodies have a higher percentage of IP associated with complex features. This association supports the hypothesis that sedimentary structures serve to concentrate stress, thus becoming preferred sites for primary joint initiation. Secondary joint initiation occurs at planar bed boundaries through interaction with pre-existing joints in adjacent siltstone beds that are mechanically coupled to form composite joints. The propagation path of joints passing through planar bed boundaries of composite joints can be traced backward to primary IP at complex sedimentary structures. Modeling suggests that when beds are mechanically coupled, the modest joint-tip stress concentration across a shale layer (e.g.,< 3X× for a 1-cm thick bed) is equivalent to the stress concentration in the vicinity of a bedform. Consequently, in mechanically coupled siltstone beds, sedimentary structures such as bedforms compete with pre-existing joint tips in adjacent beds to initiate new joint segments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-221
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology


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