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How initial basin geometry influences gravity-driven salt tectonics: Insights from laboratory experiments

Abstract : As a rifted margin starts to tilt due to thermal subsidence, evaporitic bodies can become unstable, initiating gravity-driven salt tectonics. Our understanding of such processes has greatly benefitted from tectonic modelling efforts, however a topic that has gotten limited attention so far is the influence of large-scale salt basin geometry on subsequent salt tectonics. The aim of this work is therefore to systematically test how salt basin geometry (initial salt basin depocenter location, i.e. where salt is thickest, as well as mean salt thickness) influence salt tectonic systems by means of analogue experiments. These experiments were analyzed qualitatively using top view photography, and quantitatively through Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), and 3D photogrammetry (Structure-from-Motion, SfM) to obtain their surface displacement and topographic evolution. The model results show that the degree of (instantaneous) margin basin tilt, followed by the mean salt thickness are dominant factors controlling deformation, as enhancing basin tilt and/or mean salt thickness promotes deformation. Focusing on experiments with constant basin tilt and mean salt thickness to filter out these dominant factors, we find that the initial salt depocenter location has various effects on the distribution and expression of tectonic domains. Most importantly, a more upslope depocenter leads to increased downslope displacement of material, and more subsidence (localized accommodation space generation) in the upslope domain when compared to a setting involving a depocenter situated farther downslope. A significant factor in these differences is the basal drag associated with locally thinner salt layers. When comparing our results with natural examples, we find a fair correlation expressed in the links between salt depocenter location and post-salt depositional patterns: the subsidence distribution due to the specific salt depocenter location creates accommodation space for subsequent sedimentation. These correlations are applicable when interpreting the early stages of salt tectonics, when sedimentary loading has not become dominant yet.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 1:46:24 PM
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Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, December 16, 2021 - 6:52:19 PM

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Frank Zwaan, Matthias Rosenau, Daniele Maestrelli. How initial basin geometry influences gravity-driven salt tectonics: Insights from laboratory experiments. Marine and Petroleum Geology, Elsevier, 2021, 133, pp.105195. ⟨10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2021.105195⟩. ⟨insu-03345250⟩

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