Abstract

The structural geologic interpretation of reflection seismic data is affected by conceptual uncertainty, particularly in challenging onshore settings. This uncertainty can be significantly reduced by the integration of cross-section restoration and balancing techniques into the seismic interpretation workflow. Moreover, these techniques define a solid and comprehensive basis, grounding the interpretation and allowing a closer investigation of the deformation history that led to the interpreted structures. These benefits are demonstrated on the basis of a case study from the eastern Jura Mountains in northern Switzerland. This mountain range was formed by a thin-skinned foreland fold-and-thrust belt with a multiphase prethrusting tectonic history. Despite significant seismic acquisition and processing efforts, seismic imaging of the strongly deformed parts of the belt widely remains ambiguous. We have developed a detailed systematic interpretation workflow that is exemplified here for a single seismic profile across the Jura Main Thrust. Classical cross-section balancing techniques of equal bed lengths and areas were applied to validate and reinterpret the given seismic interpretation. Our results suggest that most of the observed structures resulted from thin-skinned deformation along a basal décollement in Lower Triassic evaporites, which is generally inferred for the Jura Mountains. Nevertheless, secondary detachment levels in above lying strata have to be considered as well. The stepwise restoration of the analyzed cross section points toward different styles of thin-skinned deformation and possibly several episodes of earlier basement-rooted faulting events, which are indicated by subtle stratigraphic thickness changes. In summary, our workflow allowed us to significantly improve the original seismic interpretation, highlight specific deformation styles, and illuminate possible prethrusting deformation events that would otherwise be easily overlooked.

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