models to give answers to geological questions, the models must be similar
to nature in various respects. The similarity should not only be geometric,
but kinematic and dynamic similarity must also be considered. This concept
was first applied to geology
by Hubbert (1937) who quoted Galileo Galilei:
Clearly if then
one wishes to maintain in a great giant the same proportion of limb
as that found in an ordinary man he must either find a harder and stronger
material for making the bones, or he must admit a diminution of strength
in comparison with men of medium stature; for if his height be increased
inordinately he will fall and be crushed under his own weight. Whereas,
if the size of a body be diminished, the strength of that body is not
diminished in the same proportion; indeed the smaller the body the greater
its relative strength. Thus a small dog could probably carry on his
back two or three dogs of his own size; but I believe that a horse could
not carry even one of his own size.
mass of a body and the strength of its bones scale with the cube and the
square of the length, respectively, the material of the bones needs to
be strengthened proportionally to the scaling of length. Accordingly,
even early "analogue" experiments performed in the 19th century
(see Figure 2, reproduced from Cadell 1889) used materials with properties
different from those of the natural prototypes. In these attempts to explain
geological processes the scaling was done rather intuitively than mathematically.
Early analogue modelling done by Cadell (1889). No scaling was
done for this experiment, concerned with the generation of the Scottish
Highlands. (Click for
between models and nature are rooted in processes which the model is supposed
to reproduce. The physical laws governing these processes can be expressed
as equations that can be used to link various properties of the model
with corresponding properties in nature.
Geometric shapes are considered to be "similar" if corresponding
angles are equal. This implies that all possible ratios of lengths in
the model must be the same as the corresponding ratios in nature, e.
g. the aspect ratio. Exaggeration of the vertical scale does not maintain
the aspect ratio. For geometric similarity all lengths must be scaled
by the same scaling factor. Angles in the model must equal those in
A prerequisite for kinematic similarity is geometric similarity. Furthermore,
all the time needed for corresponding movements must be scaled by the
same factor. Therefore, scaling factors for velocity, strain rate and
other kinematic properties are also set by this constraint to maintain
Dynamic similarity deals with accelerations, forces and related properties.
Therefore, the masses of corresponding volume elements dV must
all be scaled by the same factor, i. e. density must be scaled homogeneously
throughout the model. The relevant types of forces are:
Body forces act on the mass of a body. Since the density scale is
given, gravitational forces F = mg are only influenced by gravity
g. Inertial forces can be neglected in tectonic models. Displacement
rates in tectonics are of the order of some centimetres per year.
To result in accelerations comparable to g, the velocities
would have to be changed in the order of nanoseconds.
Forces acting on surfaces (stresses) require geometric similarity.
Without this condition being fulfilled, the scaling of surface forces
depends on the angle between the force and the surface normal. Stresses
are to be preferred to surface forces because stresses are intensive
Instead of viscous forces, their intensive equivalent, viscous stresses
should be used. These build up in a material being deformed by flowing.
In order to obtain dynamic similarity with respect to viscous stresses,
the viscosity must be scaled. As the viscosity of the materials in
question (waxes in the model, rocks in nature) depends on temperature,
the temperature dependency of the model materials must be similar
to that in nature.
In order to obtain thermal similarity, various factors have to be taken
Kinematic similarity requires the scaling of times needed for corresponding
mechanical movements. Consequently, thermal relaxation times must
also be scaled. Thus, advective heat transfer (governed by mechanical
movement) and conductive heat transfer (governed by thermal diffusion)
are treated equally.
To obtain dynamic similarity with respect to viscous stresses, the
temperature-dependent rheology in the model needs to follow the same
type of relationship as in nature. This leads to a scaling factor
for the activation energy.
In general, temperature-related properties referring to thermal energy
such as thermal conductivity or heat flux must be scaled as well.
Nevertheless, if thermal energies do not contribute to the deformation,
this demand can be neglected.
The concept of similarities
leads to three different approaches which are mathematically equivalent.
Numbers One way to verify similarities is to use dimensionless numbers,
i. e. ratios of properties sharing the same dimension within one system.
Equality of the dimensionless numbers then ensures similarity between
model and nature. Using dimensionless numbers, several systems can easily
be compared quantitatively (Ramberg, 1967; Ranalli, 1987).
Instead of using ratios of properties sharing the same dimension, the
concept of non-dimensionalisation uses characteristic values of any property
to obtain dimensionless values (Weijermars & Schmeling, 1986). This
extension of the concept of dimensionless numbers requires several equations
linking the characteristic values to be fulfilled.
Factors In this work, ratios between corresponding values in the model
and in nature ("scaling factors") are used. Some of these scaling
factors can be chosen arbitrarily, others are set by equations linking
the scaling factors. This concept offers large flexibility, and inconsistencies
in the scaling are easily visualized (Hubbert, 1937; Ramberg, 1967). The
next section describes the scaling factors as well as the equations linking