Clastic dike

Clastic dike
Vertical clastic dike, filled with coarse basaltic sand, cuts lighter-colored horizontal beds composed of finer grained material. Quarter for scale.

A clastic dike is a seam of sedimentary material that fills a crack in and cuts across sedimentary strata. Clastic dikes form rapidly by fluidized injection (mobilization of pressurized pore fluids) or passively by water, wind, and gravity (sediment swept into open cracks). Diagenesis may play a role in the formation of some dikes.[1] Clastic dikes are commonly vertical or near-vertical. Centimetre-scale widths are common, but thicknesses range from millimetres to metres. Length is usually many times width.

Clastic dikes are found in sedimentary basin deposits worldwide. Formal geologic reports of clastic dikes began to emerge in the early 19th century.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Terms synonymous with clastic dike include: clastic intrusion, fissure fill, soft-sediment deformation, fluid escape structure, seismite, injectite, liquefaction feature, neptunian dike, paleoseismic indicator, pseudo ice wedge cast, sedimentary insertion, sheeted clastic dike, synsedimentary filling, tension fracture, and tempestite.

Environments of formation

Clastic dike environments include:

  • Clastic dikes associated with earthquakes -
An incredible variety of dikes is found in the geologic record. However, clastic dikes are typically produced by seismic disturbance and liquefaction of high water content sediments. Examples of this type are many.[8][9][10] Clastic dikes are paleoseismic indicators in certain geologic settings.[11][12] Several qualitative, field-based systems have been developed to help distinguish seismites[13] from soft sediment deformation features [14][15] formed by non-seismic processes.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22]
Results from analytical modeling of clastic dike injection in soft Pleistocene-age rocks of the Ami'az Plain, Israel[23] indicate propagation occurred at a rate of approximately 4 to 65 m/sec at driving pressures of 1-2 MPa. Emplacement duration (<2 sec) appears similar to the speed with which acoustic energy (pressure waves) moves through young, partially-lithified sedimentary rock.
  • Clastic dikes associated with debris flows -
Red-colored clastic dikes injected downward into light-colored sediment beneath a debris flow. Black Dragon Wash, San Rafael Swell, UT.
Sandstone dikes formed by downward injection are found along Black Dragon wash upstream of the famous petroglyphs area, San Rafael Swell, UT.
  • Clastic dikes associated with impact craters -
Clastic dike exposed on the east flank of the central peak of Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands, UT. Sandstone dike was injected downsection from the White Rim Sandstone into the Organ Rock Shale during the earliest part of the impact crater excavation stage. The dike is made of cataclastically broken sand grains derived from the White Rim Sandstone. The slightly overturned Organ Rock beds dip steeply to the left and their tops face toward the right. The White Rim Sandstone, folded to vertical, lies just off the photo to the right. View is to the north. P.W. Huntoon Collection.
Sandstone dikes with cataclastically deformed sand grains, sourced in the Permian White Rim Sandstone, are found within Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah,[24][25][26][27][28] at Roberts Rift,[29] and elsewhere.[30][31]
  • Clastic dikes associated with salt domes -
Clastic dike swarms associated with salt dome diapirism is reported from the Dead Sea region.[32][33]
  • Clastic dikes associated with glaciers -
Sand injection features are reported to have formed under heavy loads and confining pressures beneath grounding glacial ice.[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47]
  • Clastic dikes in resistant bedrock -
Though unusual, a significant number of reports describe sedimentary material intruding fractured crystalline bedrock, usually within fault zones.[48][49][50][51][52][53][54]
  • Clastic dikes in storm deposits -
Cyclic stresses from large waves can cause wet sediments to fluidize, forming various types of soft sediment deformation features including clastic dikes.[55][56][57][58]

Clastic dikes in Missoula flood deposits

Vertically-sheeted clastic dike typical of those found in rhythmically-bedded Missoula flood slackwater deposits of the Columbia Basin. Yellow field book for scale. Willow Creek Valley at Cecil, OR.
 This photo shows several layers of the Touchet formation, as seen close-up. There is a geologist's hammer and a leather glove in the photo to provide perspective - they suggest the layers are about 1 meter deep. There is a vertical seam of a different material running through the horizontal layers – this is the clastic dike which was introduced by later geologic processes.
Sheeted clastic dike in the Touchet Beds.[59]

Tens of thousands of unusual clastic dikes (1 mm—350 cm wide) in Pleistocene sediments of southeastern Washington may be related to loading by outburst floods. Saturated material was injected along and enlarged preexisting weaknesses (shallow frost or desiccation cracks, joints in bedrock). Other lines of evidence suggest that these dikes may have formed when the flood-deposited Touchet Formation dried, leaving deep, open cracks which subsequently filled with debris. That would mean they are desiccation features — cracks formed as wet sediment dried and contracted. If desiccation features, the dikes would have formed by passive infilling of open fractures by windblown or washed in sediment over time. Some evidence suggests the dikes are fossil ice wedge casts or features related to the melting of buried ice. There is good proxy evidence for cold-climate conditions (periglacial or nearly so) at the time of their formation. The origin of the clastic dikes in the Columbia Basin is under debate.

Dikes sourced in Touchet Beds (or Touchet-like deposits of similar age and depositional history) are known to intrude downward into older geologic units including the Pleistocene Clearwater Gravels in the Lewiston Basin,[60] pre-late Wisconsin deposits in the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Basin,[61] Miocene—Pliocene Snipes Mountain Conglomerate,[62][63][64] in the Yakima Valley, Miocene—Pliocene Ringold Formation,[65] Miocene Columbia River Basalt Group at Gable Mountain,[66] and the Walla Walla Valley,[67][68] and possibly the Alkali Canyon Fm (Dalles Group) in the Willow Creek Valley at Cecil, Oregon.


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