Abstract

A widely accepted explanation for the geometry of thrust faults is that initial failures occur on deeply buried planes of weak rock and that thrust faults propagate toward the surface along a staircase trajectory. We propose an alternative model that applies Gretener's beam-failure mechanism to a multilayered sequence. Invoking compatibility conditions, which demand that a thrust propagate both upsection and downsection, we suggest that ramps form first, at shallow levels, and are subsequently connected by flat faults. This hypothesis also explains the formation of many minor structures associated with thrusts, such as backthrusts, wedge structures, pop-ups, and duplexes, and provides a unified conceptual framework in which to evaluate field observations.

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