Abstract

Fry's center-point spacing strain analysis is applied to experiments of gravity-driven overturn of horizontal fluid layers on scales of centimetres or decimetres, and to natural salt diapirs on scales of kilometres to tens of kilometres. Laboratory experiments in which about 100 diapirs formed from initially plane horizontal layers resulted in laterally isotropic spacing and yielded an open circle on a Fry plot with a radius equal to the wavelength (W). Lateral deformation and initial departures from horizontal layers with uniform properties may influence W. Sample experiments of diapirism with and without lateral deformation are compared to natural equivalents.

The spacing of post-Late Triassic diapirs in the Zechstein salt of Germany and of post-Jurassic diapirs in the Hormuz salt of Arabia yields circles on Fry plots which indicate that these gravity structures developed without additional lateral forces. Fry plots of the spacing of salt diapirs in the Zagros Mountains define a strain ellipse with the long axis (= W in Arabia) parallel and the short axis perpendicular to post-Miocene regional fold axes. The ratio of the Zagros strain ellipse is about 1.7, which suggests a northeast-southwest shortening of 41%, rather than 10%-21% as estimated from folding alone. This mismatch may be a result of unquantified shortening due to thrusts and/or layer-parallel shortening. Center-point spacing of post-Late Triassic domes of Zechstein salt in the central North Sea also gives an ellipse. Here, the long axis coincides with the direction of Middle Jurassic to Cretaceous extension. The axial ratio of the North Sea strain ellipse is about 2.8, compared to estimates of about 1.5-2.0 by Sclater and Christie, and 1.8 by Wood and Barton.

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