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A strategy to balance cross sections of complex structures is documented and illustrated by the interpretation of a compressional structure in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico. The strategy is applicable to structures formed in sedimentary rocks under low temperatures in both compressional and extensional environments, and involves the comparison of the observed structure with simple, balanced, forward models. Forward models generated using fault-related fold theory help in understanding the processes and kinematics involved in the deformation. Further, forward models are completely constrained and easy to balance, whereas it is difficult to balance data. Therefore, forward models are useful in evaluating ideas without completely solving the structure. Models are constructed assuming parallel behavior (preservation of layer thickness, no net distortion where layers are horizontal, and conservation of bed length). Unmetamorphosed, sedimentary rocks are generally observed to deform obeying the assumptions of parallel behavior in field, map, well, and seismic data.
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