Optimal dip based on dissipation of backthrusts and hinges in fold-and-thrust belts

Abstract : Back thrusts and hinges are two types of transition between rigid sections of hanging walls observed in fold‐and‐thrust belts. Back thrusts are typical of frictional and homogeneous solids and hinges of creeping and layered materials. Our objective is to study the orientation of these transitions for the special case of a lower flat‐ramp transition in a fault‐bend fold with the following general two‐step methodology. In the first step, the forces acting on the transition are determined using equilibrium of each rigid section. In the second step, the optimal dip of the transition is obtained by minimizing the total dissipation of the structure. The three sources of dissipation, of comparable magnitude, are at the transition, on the flat, and on the ramp. For frictional material flows, the back thrusts are velocity discontinuities with optimal dips always less than half the complementary ramp angle, leading to hanging wall thickening. The optimal dip agrees well with the results of physical analogue and numerical experiments. For creeping and layered materials, it is shown that a destabilizing deformation mechanism, selected to be flexural slip, is necessary for the strain to localize and the existence of hinges to be justified. Activation of flexural slip reduces dissipation at the transition and affects the optimal transition dip. The two‐step methodology proposed here could be seen as a first attempt in producing mechanically balanced cross sections accounting for material rheology. This approach should complement the now classical kinematic models of folding.
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Bertrand Maillot, Yves Leroy. Optimal dip based on dissipation of backthrusts and hinges in fold-and-thrust belts. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2003, 108 (B6), pp.2320. ⟨10.1029/2002JB002199⟩. ⟨hal-00111389⟩

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