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AAPG Bulletin, V.
Experimental models of transfer zones in rift systems
1School of Geology and Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019; [email protected]
2School of Geology and Geophysics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019; [email protected]
Transfer zones in rift basins are classified into convergent, divergent, and synthetic, based on the relative dip directions of adjacent faults within the transfer zone. Experimental models were constructed to determine the geometry, evolution, and fault patterns associated with each of these transfer zones. In addition, basement faults with initially approaching, laterally offset, and overlapping geometries were modeled. The models consisted of two layers, with stiff clay representing basement and soft clay representing the sedimentary cover. Laser scanning and three-dimensional surface modeling were used to determine the map geometry to compare the models with examples of natural structures. The experimental models showed many similarities with conceptual models but also showed more details and a few significant differences. Typically, divergent transfer zones are narrower than convergent transfer zones, for the same initial spacing between basement faults. The differences between the different initial fault configurations (approaching, laterally offset, or overlapping) are the degree of interaction of the secondary faults, the amount of overlap between the fault zones, and in some cases, the width of the transfer zone. The main faults propagate laterally and upward and curve in the direction of dip of the faults, so that the faults curve toward each other in convergent transfer zones, away from each other in divergent transfer zones, and in the same direction in synthetic transfer zones. A primary difference with schematic models is the significant component of extensional fault propagation folding (drape folding), accompanied by secondary faulting within the sedimentary cover, especially in the early stages of fault propagation. Therefore, all three types of transfer zones are characterized by significant folding and related variations in the shapes of structures. The transfer zones are marked by a progressive change in relief from the footwall to the hanging wall, resulting in a saddle-shaped geometry. The hanging walls of the faults are marked by a gentle flexure or rollover into the fault, with the amount of flexure increasing with fault throw away from the fault tip. The geometries and fault patterns of the experimental structures match some of the observations in natural structures and also provide predictive analogs for interpretation of surface and subsurface structures and the delineation of structural traps in rift basins.
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