Abstract

Joints are the most common result of brittle fracture of rock in the Earth's crust. They control the physiography of many spectacular landforms and play an important role in the transport of fluids. In its first century, the Geological Society of America Bulletin has published a significant number of papers on joints and jointing. One hundred years ago, there were lively debates in the literature about the origin of joints, and detailed descriptions of joints near the turn of the century catalogued most geometric features that we recognize on joints today. In the 1920s, theories relating joint orientation to the tectonic stress field and to other geologic structures led to a proliferation of data on the strike and dip of joints in different regions. The gathering of orientation data dominated work on joints for the next 50 yr. In the 1960s, key papers re-established the need to document surface textures, determine age relations, and measure relative displacements across joints in order to interpret their origins. At about this time, fundamental relationships from the fields of continuum and fracture mechanics were first used to understand the process of jointing. In the past two decades, we have witnessed an effort to use field data to interpret the kinematics of jointing and to understand the initiation, propagation, interaction, and termination of joints. Theoretical methods have been developed to study the evolution of joint sets and the mechanical response of a jointed rock mass to tectonic loading. Although many interesting problems remain to be explored, a sound conceptual and theoretical framework is now available to guide research into the next century.

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