Scale independence of décollement thrusting
- John H. McBride, Andre J.M. Pugin, and Robert D. Hatcher Jr.
Orogen-scale décollements (detachment surfaces) are an enduring subject of investigation by geoscientists. Uncertainties remain as to how crustal convergence processes maintain the stresses necessary for development of low-angle fault surfaces above which huge slabs of rock are transported horizontally for tens to hundreds of kilometers. Seismic reflection profiles from the southern Appalachian crystalline core and several foreland fold-and-thrust belts provide useful comparisons with high-resolution shallow-penetration seismic reflection profiles acquired over the frontal zone of the Michigan lobe of the Wisconsinan ice sheet northwest of Chicago, Illinois. These profiles provide images of subhorizontal and overlapping dipping reflections that reveal a ramp-and-flat thrust system developed in poorly consolidated glacial till. The system is rooted in a master décollement at the top of bedrock. These 2–3 km long images contain analogs of images observed in seismic reflection profiles from orogenic belts, except that the scale of observation in the profiles in glacial materials is two orders of magnitude less. Whereas the décollement beneath the ice lobe thrust belt lies ∼70 m below thrusted anticlines having wavelengths of tens of meters driven by an advancing ice sheet, seismic images from overthrust terranes are related to lithospheric convergence that produces décollements traceable for thousands of kilometers at depths ranging from a few to over 10 km. Dual vergence or reversals in vergence (retrocharriage) that developed over abrupt changes in depth to the décollement can be observed at all scales. The strikingly similar images, despite the contrast in scale and driving mechanism, suggest a scale- and driving mechanism–independent behavior for décollement thrust systems. All these systems initially had the mechanical properties needed to produce very similar geometries with a compressional driving mechanism directed subparallel to Earth's surface. Subduction-related accretionary complexes also produce thrust systems with similar geometries in semi- to unconsolidated materials.
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- Publication type:
- Conference Paper
- Publication Subtype:
- Conference Paper
- Scale independence of décollement thrusting
- Year Published:
- Geological Society of America
- 18 p.
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