The four dimensional (4-D) evolution of brittle fault systems in orthogonal, oblique, and offset rift systems has been simulated by scaled sandbox models using dry, cohesionless, fine-grained quartz sand. Extensional deformation in the models was controlled by the orientation and geometry of a zone of stretching at the base of the model. The results of these analog model studies are compared with natural examples of rift fault systems.
Rift basins produced by orthogonal and oblique rifting are defined by segmented border fault systems parallel to the rift axes and by intrarift fault systems that are subperpendicular to the extension direction. Segmentation of the rift margin increases with increase in obliquity of the rift axis, resulting in a consequent increase in displacement on intrarift fault systems. Offset rift models are characterized by highly segmented border faults and offset subbasins in the rift zone.
Along-strike displacement transfer in the model rifts occurred as a result of formation of two types of accommodation zones. High-relief, extension-parallel accommodation zones typically are found in 60 degrees rifts and above left steps in offset rift systems. Changes in fault polarities in these accommodation zones were achieved by interlocking arrays of conjugate extensional faults. The second type of accommodation zone was generally oblique to the extension direction and consisted of conjugate fault arrays having rotated tips that bounded a low-relief oblique-slip zone or grabens. These typically are found in highly oblique rift systems (<45 degrees) and above right steps in offset rift models.