Discrete-element modelling of extensional fault-propagation folding above rigid basement fault blocks

Emma Finch, Stuart Hardy, Rob Gawthorpe

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    We employed a discrete-element technique to investigate the effects of cover strength and fault dip on the style of fault-propagation folding above a blind normal fault. Deformation in the cover is initially characterised by an upward-widening monocline that is often replaced, with continued slip on the basement fault, by a single, through-going fault. Localisation on a single fault produces hangingwall synclines and footwall anticlines as a result of breaching of the earlier monocline and which do not represent 'drag'against the fault. As basement fault dip decreases the width of the monocline at the surface increases. Experiments varying the strength of the overburden material illustrate the control that cover strength has on both fault propagation and folding in the cover. Reduction of the strength of the cover results in: (1) the width of the monocline above the fault tip increasing, and (2) more marked footwall thinning and hangingwall thickening of beds. In contrast, an increase in cover strength results in a narrower monocline and rapid propagation of the basement fault into the cover. In multi-layer (variable strength) experiments simultaneous faulting of competent layers and flow of weaker layers produces complex structural relationships. Faults in the cover die out up and down section and do not link to the basement fault at depth. Similarly, complex macroscopically ductile characteristics such as footwall thinning and hangingwall thickening can be juxtaposed against simple brittle fault cut-offs. These relationships must be borne in mind when interpreting the field and seismic expression of such structures. We discuss the modelling results in terms of their implications for structural interpretation and the surficial expression of fault-related folding in extensional settings. © 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)467-488
    Number of pages22
    JournalBasin Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2004


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