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Lateral Heterogeneity in Compressional Mountain Belt Settings
  • Mary Hubbard,
  • Bibek Giri
Mary Hubbard
Montana State University, Montana State University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Bibek Giri
Montana State University, Montana State University
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Convergent orogens are typically linear with laterally continuous, orogen-parallel folds and thrusts. Over the years, geoscience research has revealed evidence for important orthogonal/cross structures as well as lateral heterogeneity in deformation style, igneous activity, metamorphic grade, geomorphology, and seismic activity. To assess the occurrence, causal mechanisms, and implications of these lateral heterogeneities, a selection of convergent orogens, with different tectonic settings and history are reviewed. The Appalachians, the North American Cordillera, the Alps, the Himalayas, the Zagros, the Andes, and several other belts all exhibit a degree of lateral heterogeneity. Major factors driving the lateral heterogeneity and/or cross structures include the pre-existing deformational history of the cratonic blocks involved, lateral change in lithology of crustal rocks, variations in crustal/lithospheric rheologic properties, or changes in plate kinematics. The Appalachian orogenic front mimics the Iapetan rift margin. Pre-existing basement structures have control on pre- and syn-orogenic sedimentation, which subsequently impacts how an orogenic wedge evolves. A thicker sedimentary column generally evolves into a salient (as opposed to a recess), which is further enhanced by the presence of weak horizons as seen in the Zagros and the Cordillera. Lateral variation in sedimentary facies also creates changes in thrust-ramp geometry. During orogenic contraction, inherited basement structures can be preferentially reactivated based on their orientation. Several cross faults in the Himalayas spatially coincide with orogen-perpendicular, lower plate, basement structures. In a similar way, oceanic subducting plate physiography can also influence deformation in the overriding plate. Along-strike variations in subduction dynamics have been reflected in the Andean deformation. Orogenic extension in the Alps has been accompanied by a system of orogen-parallel strike slip faults and extensional cross faults. It is evident that lateral heterogeneities can form crucial control on the evolution of orogenic belts and can influence seismic rupture patterns, resource occurrence, and landslide-related natural hazards.
29 May 2023Published in Compressional Tectonics on pages 47-86. 10.1002/9781119773856.ch3