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Discrete element modelling of extensional, growth, fault‐propagation foldsNormal access

Author: S. Hardy
Journal name: Basin Research
Issue: Vol 31, No 3, June 2019 pp. 584 - 599
DOI: 10.1111/bre.12335
Organisations: Wiley
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 10.45Mb )

Extensional fault‐propagation folds are now recognised as being an important part of basin structure and development. They have a very distinctive expression, often present-ing an upward‐widening monocline, which is subsequently breached by an underlying, propagating fault. Growth strata, if present, are thought to provide a crucial insight into the manner in which such structures grow in space and time. However, interpreting their stratigraphic signal is neither straightforward nor unique. Both analogue and numerical models can provide some insight into fold growth. In particular, the trishear kinematic model has been widely adopted to explain many aspects of the evolution and geometry of such fault‐propagation folds. However, in some cases the materials/rheologies used to represent the cover do not reproduce the key geometric/stratigraphic features of such folds seen in nature. This appears to arise from such studies not addressing adequately the very heterogenous mechanical stratigraphy seen in many sedimentary covers. In particular, flexural slip between beds/layers is often not explicitly modelled but, para-doxically, it appears to be an important deformation mechanism operative in such set-tings. Here, I present a 2D discrete element model of extensional fault‐propagation folding which explicitly includes flexural slip between predefined sedimentary units or layers in the cover. The model also includes growth strata and shows how they may re-flect the various evolutionary stages of fold and fault growth. When flexural slip is in-cluded in the modelling scheme, the resultant breached monoclines and their growth strata are strikingly similar to some of those seen in nature. Results are also compared with those obtained using simple, homogeneous, frictional‐cohesive and elastic cover materials. Both un‐lithified and lithified growth strata are considered and clearly show that, rather than just being passive recorders of structural evolution, growth strata can themselves have an important effect on fault‐related fold growth. Implications for the evolution of and strain within, the resultant growth structures are discussed. A final focus of this study is the relationship that trishear might have with the upward‐widening zone of flexural slip activation away from a fault tip singularity.

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