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Thick-skinned and thin-skinned styles of continental contraction

O. Adrian Pfiffner
Thick-skinned and thin-skinned styles of continental contraction (in Styles of continental contraction, Stefano Mazzoli (editor) and Robert W. H. Butler (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2006) 414: 153-177


Continental crust subjected to horizontal contraction in convergent settings deforms in a variety of styles. In many instances, it is useful to consider the deforming crustal sections in terms of crystalline basement rocks underlying incipiently undeformed sedimentary strata. Three deformation styles are commonly found in such settings. The structural style referred to as thin-skinned tectonics encompasses a stack of thrust sheets composed of non-or weakly metamorphic sedimentary rocks. The associated thrust faults usually level off in a mechanically weak decollement horizon along which a substantial amount of displacement occurs in the course of the formation of the fold-and-thrust belt. Thrust faults may also cut down into the crystalline basement and level off a few kilometers beneath the basement-cover interface. The term basement-involved thin-skinned tectonics is proposed to describe this style of continental contraction. This style, too, is characterized by stacks of thrust sheets. In many cases however, such nappe stacks are overprinted by pervasive folding of a crust thermally weakened by magmatic activity or regional burial metamorphism. Thick-skinned tectonics seems less common. This style implies that thrust faults cut across the entire upper crust (and possibly the lower crust). The associated continental contraction is smaller, and the ensuing deformation is characterized by warping of the basement-cover interface. Displacements accumulated in a major basal detachment horizon may connect into mantle by means of a subduction zone. However, under elevated temperatures, pervasive deformation of the hanging wall and footwall rocks may compensate large displacements over relatively short distances. Thin-skinned fold-and-thrust belts are common on both sides of collisional orogens. Noncollisional orogens tend to be more asymmetric.

ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 414
Title: Thick-skinned and thin-skinned styles of continental contraction
Title: Styles of continental contraction
Author(s): Pfiffner, O. Adrian
Author(s): Mazzoli, Stefanoeditor
Author(s): Butler, Robert W. H.editor
Affiliation: University of Bern, Institute of Geological Sciences, Bern, Switzerland
Affiliation: Universita di Napoli "Federico II", Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Naples, Italy
Pages: 153-177
Published: 2006
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
Meeting name: 32nd international geological congress, symposium on Styles of continental compression
Meeting location: Florence, ITA, Italy
Meeting date: 20040820Aug. 20-28, 2004
References: 83
Accession Number: 2007-022914
Categories: Structural geology
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: sects.
N33°00'00" - N47°30'00", W87°00'00" - W67°00'00"
S44°00'00" - S10°00'00", E113°00'00" - E154°00'00"
N27°00'00" - N37°00'00", E72°00'00" - E97°00'00"
N45°49'60" - N47°34'60", E04°45'00" - E08°15'00"
N54°40'00" - N61°00'00", W08°30'00" - W00°45'00"
N42°45'00" - N43°30'00", W109°30'00" - W108°30'00"
Secondary Affiliation: University of Leeds, GBR, United Kingdom
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200713
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