Dynamic modelling of passive margin salt tectonics: effects of water loading, sediment properties and sedimentation patterns
L. Gemmer, C. Beaumont and S.J. Ings
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 17, No 3, September 2005 pp. 383 - 402
Info: Article, PDF ( 1.58Mb )
We investigate the evolution of passive continental margin sedimentary basins that contain salt through two-dimensional (2D) analytical failure analysis and plane- strain finite- element modelling. We expand an earlier analytical failure analysis of a sedimentary basin/salt system at a passive continental margin to include the effects of submarine water loading and pore fluid pressure. Seaward thinning sediments above aweak salt layer produce a pressure gradient that induces Poiseuille flow in the viscous salt. We determine the circumstances under which failure at the head and toe of the frictional-plastic sediment wedge occurs, resulting in translation of the wedge, landward extension and seaward contraction, accompanied by Couette flow in the underlying salt. The effects of water: (i) increase solid and fluid pressures in the sediments; (ii) reduce the head to toe di¡erential pressure in the salt and (iii) act as a buttress to oppose failure and translation of the sediment wedge. The magnitude of the translation velocity upon failure is reduced by the effects of water. The subsequent deformation is investigated using a 2D finite-element model that includes the effects of the submarine setting and hydrostatic pore pressures. The model quantitatively simulates a 2D approximation of the evolution of natural sedimentary basins on continental margins that are formed above salt. Sediment progradation above a viscous salt layer results in formation of landward extensional basins and listric normal growth faults as well as seaward contraction. At a later stage, an allochthonous salt nappe overthrusts the autochthonous limit of the salt. The nature and distribution of major structures depends on the sediment properties and the sedimentation pattern. Strain weakening of sediment favours landward listric growth faults with formation of asymmetric extensional depocentres. Episodes of low sediment influx, with partial infill of depocentres, produce local pressure gradients in the salt that result in diapirism. Diapirs grow passively during sediment aggradation.