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Propagation of a lithospheric tear fault (STEP) through the western boundary of the Calabrian accretionary wedge offshore eastern Sicily (Southern Italy)

Abstract : The rollback of a segmented slab of oceanic lithosphere is typically accompanied by vertical lithospheric tear fault(s) along the lateral slab edge(s) and by strike slip movement in the upper plate, defined as a STEP fault (Subduction Tear Edge Propagator). The Neogene evolution of the Central Mediterranean is dominated by the interaction between the slow Africa-Eurasia convergence and the SE-ward rollback of the Ionian slab, that leads to the back-arc opening of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here, we present post-stack time migrated and pre-stack depth migrated Archimede (1997) multichannel seismic lines, that were acquired offshore eastern Sicily, at the foot of the Malta escarpment. First, we identify the recent deformation along the lateral ramp of the Calabrian accretionary wedge. Towards the east, the Calabrian wedge is formed by the accretion of the post-evaporitic sediments, above a decollement at the base of the Messinian evaporites. At the latitude of Syracuse, 50 km east of the Malta escarpment, a major N150°E trending crustal scale and vertical fault slices through the entire accretionary wedge. This fault cuts by several kilometers, through the pre-evaporitic Messinian sediments and into the basement. The vertical offset along this vertical fault decreases from north to south, and the fault is no longer observed on the seismic lines, 50 km SE of the Alfeo seamount. A previously published Moho depth isocontour map, offshore Sicily and the recent GPS data, combined with the presence of strike slip movements NE onshore Sicily, allow us to identify this 200 km long crustal-scale fault as the surface expression of a STEP fault. The presence of syntectonic Pleistocene sediments on top this crustal-scale fault suggests a recent lithospheric vertical movement of the STEP fault, in response to the rollback of the Ionian slab and to the SE-ward advance of the Calabria-Peloritan block.
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Flora Gallais, David Graindorge, Marc-André Gutscher, Dirk Klaeschen. Propagation of a lithospheric tear fault (STEP) through the western boundary of the Calabrian accretionary wedge offshore eastern Sicily (Southern Italy). Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2013, 602, pp.141-152. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2012.12.026⟩. ⟨insu-00793073⟩

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