Analogue modelling of thrust systems: Passive vs. active hanging wall strain accommodation and sharp vs. smooth fault-ramp geometries

F.M. Rosas, J.C. Duarte, P. Almeida, W. P. Schellart, N.A.W. van Riel, P. Terrinha

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We present new analogue modelling results of crustal thrust-systems in which a deformable (brittle) hanging wall is assumed to endure passive internal deformation during thrusting, i.e. exclusively as a consequence of having to adapt its shape to the variable geometry of a rigid footwall. Building on previous experimental contributions, we specifically investigate the role of two so far overlooked critical variables: a) concave-convex (CC) vs. flat-ramp-flat (FRF) thrust ramp geometry; and b) presence vs. absence of a basal velocity discontinuity (VD). Regarding the first variable, we compare new results for considered (CC) smoother ramp types against classical experiments in which (FRF) sharp ramp geometries are always prescribed. Our results show that the considered sharp vs. smooth variation in the thrust-ramp geometry produces important differences in the distribution of the local stress field in the deformable hanging wall above both (lower and upper) fault bends, with corresponding styles of strain accommodation being expressed by marked differences in measured morpho-structural parameters. Regarding the second variable, we for the first time report analogue modelling results of this type of experiments in which basal VDs are experimentally prescribed to be absent. Our results critically show that true passive hanging wall deformation is only possible to simulate in the absence of any basal VD, since active shortening accommodation always necessarily occurs in the hanging wall above such a discontinuity (i.e. above the lower fault bend). In addition, we show that the morpho-structural configuration of model thrust-wedges formed for prescribed VD absence conditions complies well with natural examples of major overthrusts, wherein conditions must occur that approximate a frictionless state along the main basal thrust-plane.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-69
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Early online date4 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Analogue modelling
  • Basal velocity discontinuity
  • Hanging wall passive deformation
  • Thrust ramp geometry
  • Thrust-systems
  • Thrust-wedge morpho-structural configuration


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