Many fossil and active accretionary wedge systems show signs of tectonic underplating, which denotes accretion of underthrust material to the base of the wedge. Underplating is a viable process for thickening of the rear part of accretionary wedges, for example as a response to horizontal growth perpendicular to strike. Here, numerical experiments with a visco-elasto-plastic rheology are applied to test the importance of backstop geometry, flexural rigidity, décollement strength, and surface erosion on the structural evolution of accretionary wedges undergoing different modes of sediment accretion, where underplating is introduced by the implementation of two, a basal and an intermediate, décollement levels. Results demonstrate that intense erosion and a strong lower plate hamper thickening of a wedge at the rear, enhancing localized underplating, antiformal stacking, and subsequent exhumation to sustain its critical taper. Furthermore, large strength contrasts between basal and intermediate décollements have an important morphological impact on wedge growth due to different resulting critical taper angles. Presented numerical experiments are compared to natural examples of accretionary wedges and are able to recreate first-order structural observations related to underplating.
Research Article| October 15, 2020
Numerical modeling of tectonic underplating in accretionary wedge systems
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Jonas B. Ruh; Numerical modeling of tectonic underplating in accretionary wedge systems. Geosphere doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES02273.1
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