High-resolution three-dimensional terrain models are used to evaluate the Ragged Mountain fault kinematics (Katalla, Alaska, USA). Previous studies have produced contradictory interpretations of the fault’s kinematics because surface ruptures along the fault are primarily steeply dipping, uphill-facing normal fault scarps. In this paper, we evaluate the hypothesis that these uphill-facing scarps represent extension above a buried thrust ramp. Detailed geomorphic mapping along the fault, using 20-cm-resolution aerial imagery draped onto a 1-m-resolution lidar (light detection and ranging) elevation model, was used to produce multiple topographic profiles. These profiles illustrate scarp geometries and prominent convex-upward topographic surfaces, indicating significant disturbance by active tectonics. A theoretical model is developed for fault-parallel flow over a thrust ramp that shows the geometric relationships between thrust displacement, upper-plate extension, and ramp dip. An important prediction of the model for this study is that the magnitude of upper-plate extension is comparable to, or greater than, the thrust displacement for ramps with dips greater than ~45°. This model is used to analyze profile shapes and surface displacements in Move software (Midland Valley Ltd.). Analyses of scarp heights allow estimates of hanging-wall extension, which we then use to estimate slip on the underlying thrust via the model. Assuming a low-angle (30°) uniformly dipping thrust and simple longitudinal extension via normal faulting, variations in extension along the fault would require a slip gradient from ~8 m in the north to ~22 m in the south. However, the same north-south variation in extension with a constant slip of 8–10 m may infer an increase in fault dip from ~30° in the north to ~60° in the south. This model prediction has broader implications for active-fault studies. Because the model quantifies relationships between hanging-wall extension, fault slip, and fault dip, it is possible to invert for fault slip in blind thrust ramps where hanging-wall extension is the primary surface manifestation. This study, together with results from the St. Elias Erosion and Tectonics Project (STEEP), clarifies the role of the Ragged Mountain fault as a contractional structure within a broadly sinistral shear system in the western syntaxis of the St. Elias orogeny.
Development of surface ruptures by hanging-wall extension over a thrust ramp along the Ragged Mountain fault, Katalla, Alaska, USA: Applications of high-resolution three-dimensional terrain models
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Sarah N. Heinlein, Terry L. Pavlis, Ronald L. Bruhn; Development of surface ruptures by hanging-wall extension over a thrust ramp along the Ragged Mountain fault, Katalla, Alaska, USA: Applications of high-resolution three-dimensional terrain models. Geosphere 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES02097.1
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