Abstract

“Triangle zone” geometry is well established in thrust tectonics, where the leading edge of a frontal thrust branches backward onto a hinterland-directed roof thrust, and the triangle zone thus formed defines the thrust system’s leading edge. Similar geometries occur in extension and inversion settings, where a triangle zone can form between a deep-seated master fault and a roof fault or backthrust located in a hanging-wall detachment. In basement-controlled extension, triangle zone development can occur when the shear strength of the master fault plane in the zone above a hanging-wall detachment cutoff exceeds that of a new or reactivated antithetic fault detaching on the hanging-wall dip slope. This structural style is characterized by pronounced hanging-wall synclines linked to detached extensional faults higher up the hanging-wall dip slopes. The same principles apply during early phases of inversion tectonics. The part of the master fault that is above the hanging-wall detachment cutoff may constitute a buttress that causes displacement to backthrust along any available detachment into accommodation structures such as emergent ramps. This structural style is characterized by compressional structures within the graben while there is minor or even no sign of inversion on the graben margin faults. These geometries could be accounted for by other processes, for example, localized deep-seated fault-controlled structures within graben, or salt redistribution. However, fieldwork and analog models demonstrate the admissibility of triangle zone kinematics across a range of tectonic settings in the presence of detachment layers that are thin relative to the overall stratigraphy — typically tens to hundreds of meters in thickness. These models can guide seismic interpretation of unusual fold structures in extensional and inverted graben. Seismic interpretation examples were evaluated from the North Sea and Saudi Arabia.

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