Plains-type folds are local, subtle anticlines formed in the thin sedimentary package overlying a shallow, crystalline basement on the craton. They are small in areal extent (usually less than 1–3 km2 [0.4–1.2 mi2]), and their amplitude increases with depth (usually tens of meters), which is mainly the result of differential compaction of sediments (usually clastic units) over tilted, rigid, basement fault blocks. The development of these structural features by continuous but intermittent movement of the basement fault blocks in the late Paleozoic in the United States mid-continent is substantiated by a record of stratigraphic and sedimentological evidence.
The recurrent structural movement, which reflects adjustment to external stresses, is expressed by the change in thickness of stratigraphic units over the crest of the fold compared to the flanks. By plotting the change in thickness for different stratigraphic units of anticlines on different fault blocks, it is possible to determine the timing of movement of the blocks that reflect structural adjustment. These readjustments are confirmed by sedimentological evidence, such as convolute, soft-sediment deformation features and small intraformational faults.
The stratigraphic interval change in thickness for numerous structures in the Cherokee, Forest City, and Salina basins and on the Nemaha anticline of the mid-continent United States was determined and compared for location and timing of the adjustments. Most of the adjustment occurred during and after time of deposition of the Permian–Pennsylvanian clastic units, which, in turn, reflect tectonic disturbance in adjacent areas, and the largest amount of movement on the plains-type structures occurred on those nearest and semiparallel to major positive features, such as the Nemaha anticline.
Depending on the time of origin and development of plains-type folds, they may control the entrapment and occurrence of oil and gas.