Kinematic model for out-of-sequence thrusting: Motion of two ramp-flat faults and the production of upper plate duplex systems
Kinematic models developed here suggest a bewildering array of structural styles can be generated during out-of-sequence thrusting. Many of these structures would be difficult to distinguish from a normally stacked thrust sequence and the process can produce younger-on-older faults that could easily be misinterpreted as normal faults. This paper considers a small subset of this problem within a large model space by considering structures that develop along a pair of ramp-flat faults that are moving simultaneously, or sequentially. Motion on the lower ramp warps the structurally higher fault due to fault-bend folding and when the fault ruptures through the warp it transfers a horse to the upper hanging wall. Continuity of the process generates what is referred to here as an “upper plate duplex” to distinguish the structure from a conventional duplex. Kinematic parameters are developed for two models within this general problem: 1) a system with a fixed ramp in the lower thrust, overridden by an upper thrust; and 2) a double-duplex system where a conventional duplex develops along the lower fault at the same time as an upper plate duplex is formed along the upper fault. The theory is tested with forward models using 2D Move software and these tests indicate different families of structural styles form in association with relative scaling of ramp systems, slip-ratio between faults, and aspect ratios of horse blocks formed in the upper-plate duplex. A first-order result of the analysis is that an upper plate duplex can be virtually indistinguishable from a conventional duplex unless the trailing branch lines of the horses are exposed or imaged; a condition seldom met in natural exposures. Restoration of an upper-plate duplex produces counterintuitive fault geometry in the restored state, and thus, restorations of upper plate duplexes that erroneously assume a conventional duplex model would produce restored states that are seriously in error. In addition, in most of the models some fault segments place younger rocks on older rocks which could be easily misinterpreted as normal fault systems. In some models younger-on-older juxtapositions are significant and if scaled to crustal scale would produce core-complex style structures that would be difficult to recognize as contractional features. Collectively, these observations imply that many areas where simultaneous contraction and extension are inferred may be entirely contractional with younger-on-older relationships generated by out-of-sequence thrust systems. Examples where this process may have occurred are in southwestern North America and the Moine thrust system and future studies should evaluate these systems in light of these models. Distinguishing upper plate duplex from conventional duplex is potentially important in economic evaluations of thrust systems because fluid migration paths would be very different in the two alternatives. The process may also be important in seismogenic mechanisms, particularly in subduction megathrusts, because faults warping faults could produce fault irregularities that would form transient asperities along the fault.