An alternative emplacement model for the classic Ardnamurchan cone sheet swarm, NW Scotland, involving lateral magma supply via regional dykes

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Sub-volcanic intrusive networks, of which cone sheets are recognised as a major constituent, partially control volcano growth and eruption style. The accepted cone sheet model is that these confocally dipping intrusions originate from an unexposed central magma chamber through dip-parallel magma flow. However, the emplacement mechanism of cone sheets remains poorly understood. The ∼58 Ma cone sheet swarm of Ardnamurchan, NW Scotland, offers an excellent opportunity to further resolve the emplacement dynamics of cone sheets, through studying magma flow, and their importance in volcanic edifice construction. Structural measurements and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility (AMS) analyses have constrained a lateral magma flow pattern, consistently oriented NW–SE, in the majority of the Ardnamurchan cone sheets. Field observations also highlight the importance of host rock structure and interference between competing local and regional stress fields in controlling intrusion geometry. Our observations suggest cone sheet formation may be linked to laterally propagating NW–SE trending regional dykes, sourced from laterally adjacent magmatic systems (likely the Palaeogene Mull Central Complex), which are deflected around the central complex by stress field interference. Implicitly, edifice construction and potential eruption precursors observed at a volcano may instigate, or result from, magmatic activity in laterally adjacent volcanic systems.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-91
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Early online date16 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • Anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility, Ardnamurchan, Cone sheets, Inclined sheets, Regional dykes