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Enviroscan Ukrainian Institute of Speleology and Karstology

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Featured article from geoscience journal

Bulletin de La Societe Geologique de France/Geophysical Research Letters, 2009, Vol 36
Buoyant convection resulting from dissolution and permeability growth in vertical limestone fractures

and testing them on natural analogs provided by geologic systems may be fruitful. As example, we illustrate our attempts to simulate the development of two types of cave systems – branchwork in meteoric environments and mazework in hypogene or hydrothermal environments. Our computational models combine hydraulic, thermal and chemical processes in limestone fractures and consider the influence of subsurface heterogeneity as well. Our computational results vividly demonstrate the mechanisms by which branchwork patterns develop in meteoric environments and demonstrate how sustained dissolution along upward flow channels can be established in hypogene environments, thus creating favourable conditions for development of maze patterns. Investigations of system sensitivities in both types of environments indicate that a surprisingly robust pattern of behaviour results, thus serving as a target for developing simplified conceptual models of these systems. We also discuss the implications of our results for design, operation and risk analysis of engineered earth systems.