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Kinematic History of a Salient-recess Junction Explored through a Combined Approach of Field Data and Analog Sandbox Modeling

Published: August 5th, 2016



1Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Franklin and Marshall College, 2Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
* These authors contributed equally

Kinematic histories of fold-thrust belts are typically based on careful examinations of high-grade metamorphic rocks within a salient. We provide a novel method of understanding fold-thrust belts by examining salient-recess junctions. We analyze the oft-ignored upper crustal rocks using a combined approach of detailed fault analysis with experimental sandbox modeling.

Within fold-thrust belts, the junctions between salients and recesses may hold critical clues to the overall kinematic history. The deformation history within these junctions is best preserved in areas where thrust sheets extend from a salient through an adjacent recess. We examine one such junction within the Sevier fold-thrust belt (western United States) along the Leamington transverse zone, northern Utah. Deformation within this junction took place by faulting and cataclastic flow. Here, we describe a protocol that examines these fault patterns to better understand the kinematic history of the field area. Fault data is supplemented by analog sandbox experiments. This study suggests that, in detail, deformation within the overlying thrust sheet may not directly reflect the underlying basement structure. We demonstrate that this combined field-experimental approach is easy, accessible, and may provide more details to the deformation preserved in the crust than other more expensive methods, such as computer modeling. In addition, the sandbox model may help to explain why and how these details formed. This method can be applied throughout fold-thrust belts, where upper-crustal rocks are well preserved. In addition, it can be modified to study any part of the upper crust that has been deformed via elastico-frictional mechanisms. Finally, this combined approach may provide more details as to how fold-thrust belts maintain critical-taper and serve as potential targets for natural resource exploration.

Fold-thrust belts are composed of salients (or segments), where the thrust sheets in adjoining salients are decoupled by recesses or transverse zones1,2,3. The transition from salient to recess may be markedly complex, involving a multifaceted suite of structures, and may hold critical clues to fold-thrust belt development. In this paper, we carefully examine a salient-recess junction, using a combination of multiscale field data and a sandbox model, in order to better understand how deformation can be accommodated within fold-thrust belts.

The junction of the Central Utah segment and the Leamington transverse zone is an ideal na....

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1. Collection of Macroscale Field Data

  1. Before conducting field work, use aerial photographs/topographic maps to identify the overall trend of the mountains (defined by the modern-day ridge crest), transverse zones, faults and other lineations at the macroscale (Figure 2).
    1. Use similar scale topographic maps and aerial photographs, so that patterns can be directly compared. Use 1:24,000 scale maps and photographs.
  2. Label and highlight macroscale features on th.......

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Aerial photographs were used to subdivide the field area into four Regions (1-4), based on the trend of the modern mountain ridge crest (Figure 2). Multi-scale fault data is compared between these four Regions. Assuming that these trend changes reflect the underlying basement geometry, the oblique ramp is positioned within Regions 2 and 3, where the mountains trend oblique to the Sevier fold-thrust belt. Throughout the four Regions, we found that the mesoscale faults pres.......

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The Central Utah segment of the Sevier fold-thrust belt, and its northern boundary, the Leamington transverse zone serves as an ideal natural laboratory for studying salient-recess junctions (Figure 1). Along this junction, the transport direction remains constant and the thrust sheets are uninterrupted across the junction, so the only variable is the underlying basement geometry5.

Here, we present a method to analyze this type of salient-recess junction by combinin.......

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We thank Erin Bradley and Liz Cole for their assistance in the field. Field work, thin-section preparation and material for the sandbox model was supported by Franklin & Marshall College's Committee on Grants.


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