Tensile rock mass strength estimated using InSAR



[1] The large-scale strength of rock is known to be lower than the strength determined from small-scale samples in the laboratory. However, it is not well known how strength scales with sample size. I estimate kilometer-scale tensional rock mass strength by measuring offsets across new tensional fractures (joints), formed above a shallow magmatic dike intrusion in western Arabia in 2009. I use satellite radar observations to derive 3D ground displacements and by quantifying the extension accommodated by the joints and the maximum extension that did not result in a fracture, I put bounds on the joint initiation threshold of the surface rocks. The results indicate that the kilometer-scale tensile strength of the granitic rock mass is 1–3 MPa, almost an order of magnitude lower than typical laboratory values.