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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2018-122
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2018-122
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 23 Nov 2018

Research article | 23 Nov 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

Control of increased sedimentation on orogenic fold-and-thrust belt structure – Insights into the evolution of the Western Alps

Zoltán Erdős1,2,a, Ritske S. Huismans1, and Peter van der Beek2 Zoltán Erdős et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • 2ISTerre, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
  • anow at: Department of Geophysics and Space Science, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

Abstract. We use two-dimensional thermo-mechanical models to investigate the potential role of rapid filling of foreland basins in the development of orogenic foreland fold-and-thrust belts. We focus on the extensively studied example of the Western European Alps, where a sudden increase in foreland sedimentation rate is well documented during the mid-Oligocene. Our model results indicate that such an increase in sedimentation rate will temporarily disrupt the formation of an otherwise regular, outward-propagating basement thrust-sheet sequence. The basement thrust active at the time of a sudden increase in sedimentation rate remains active for a longer time and accommodates more shortening than the previous thrusts. As the propagation of deformation into the foreland fold-and-thrust belt is strongly connected to basement deformation, this transient phase appears as a period of slow migration of the distal edge of foreland deformation. The predicted pattern of foreland-basin and thrust-front propagation is strikingly similar to that observed in the North Alpine Foreland Basin and provides an explanation for the coeval mid-Oligocene filling of the Swiss Molasse Basin, due to increased sediment input from the Alpine orogen, and a marked decrease in thrust-front propagation rate. We also compare our results to predictions from critical-taper theory and we conclude, that they are broadly consistent, although, when sedimentation is included, critical-taper theory cannot be used to predict the timing and location of the formation of new basement thrusts.

The evolution scenario explored here is common in orogenic foreland basins; hence our results have broad implications for orogenic belts other than the Western Alps.

Zoltán Erdős et al.
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Zoltán Erdős et al.
Video supplement

Evolution of Model 1 Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38571

Evolution of Model 2 Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38572

Evolution of Model 3 Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38576

Evolution of Model 1.1 Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38573

Evolution of Model 2.1 Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38574

Model 1: α-Topography-Strain rate Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38575

Model 2: α-Topography-Strain rate Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38577

Model 1: β-Topography-Strain rate Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38578

Model 2: β-Topography-Strain rate Z. Erdős, R. S. Huismans, and P. van der Beek https://doi.org/10.5446/38579

Zoltán Erdős et al.
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Short summary
We used a 2D thermo-mechanical code to simulate the evolution of an orogen. Our aim was to study the interaction between tectonic- and surface-processes in orogenic forelands. We found that an increase in the sediment input to the foreland results in a prolonged activity of the active frontal-thrust. Such a scenario could occure naturally as a result of increasing relief in the orogenic hinterland or a change in climatic conditions. We compare our results with observations from the Alps.
We used a 2D thermo-mechanical code to simulate the evolution of an orogen. Our aim was to study...
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