Fault-related fold styles and progressions in fold-thrust belts: Insights from sandbox modeling

Document Type



Fault-related folds of variable structural styles and assemblages commonly coexist in orogenic belts with competent-incompetent interlayered sequences. Despite their commonality, the kinematic evolution of these structural styles and assemblages are often loosely constrained because multiple solutions exist in their structural progression during tectonic restoration. We use a sandbox modeling instrument with a particle image velocimetry monitor to test four designed sandbox models with multilayer competent-incompetent materials. Test results reveal that decollement folds initiate along selected incompetent layers with decreasing velocity difference and constant vorticity difference between the hanging wall and footwall of the initial fault tips. The decollement folds are progressively converted to fault-propagation folds and fault-bend folds through development of fault ramps breaking across competent layers and are followed by propagation into fault flats within an upper incompetent layer. Thick-skinned thrust is produced by initiating a decollement fault within the metamorphic basement. Progressive thrusting and uplifting of the thick-skinned thrust trigger initiation of the uppermost incompetent decollement with formation of a decollement fold and subsequent converting to fault-propagation and fault-bend folds, which combine together to form imbricate thrust. Breakouts at the base of the early formed fault ramps along the lowest incompetent layers, which may correspond to basement-cover contacts, domes the upmost decollement and imbricate thrusts to form passive roof duplexes and constitute the thin-skinned thrust belt. Structural styles and assemblages in each of tectonic stages are similar to that in the representative orogenic belts in the South China, Southern Appalachians, and Alpine orogenic belts. ©2016. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


fault-related fold; imbricate thrust; kinematic model; passive duplex; sandbox modeling

UNLV article access

Search your library