Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Melt and shear interactions in the lithosphere: Theory and numerical analysis of pure shear extension


Corresponding author: A. Mohajeri, Earth Systems Science Computational Centre (ESSCC), School of Earth Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia. E-mail: (


[1] We present a linear instability analysis and numerical simulations describing deformation and melt patterns in pure shear extension of a partly molten rock. Our models implement numerical techniques that enable strong strain localization and are applied to study melt-strain interactions during continental rifting. Our results show that instabilities can initiate with either strain localization or melt localization, followed by a coupled evolution of melt and shear bands driven by a strong melt-viscosity-shear feedback. This indicates that a local increase in melt fraction due to segregation and/or local melting promotes strain localization and may lead to the formation of large shear bands. Melt-shear interactions can therefore enable rifting where tectonic forces are not sufficient to induce melt-free rifting, resulting in lubricated faults, but not necessarily observed volcanism. Finally, our simulations reveal significant asymmetry in melt segregation around localized shear bands, providing new insights into melt distribution across rift boundary faults and other extensional structures.