22 Nov 2022
22 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Tectonic interactions during rift linkage: Insights from analog and numerical experiments

Timothy Chris Schmid1, Sascha Brune2,3, Anne Glerum2, and Guido Schreurs1 Timothy Chris Schmid et al.
  • 1Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Bern
  • 2Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3University of Potsdam, Potsdam-Golm, Germany

Abstract. Continental rifts evolve by linkage and interaction of adjacent individual segments. As rift segments propagate, they can cause notable re-orientation of the local stress field so that stress orientations deviate from the regional trend. In return, this stress re-orientation can feed back on progressive deformation and may ultimately deflect propagating rift segments in an unexpected way. Here, we employ numerical and analog experiments of continental rifting to investigate the interaction between stress re-orientation and segment linkage. Both model types employ crustal-scale two-layer setups where pre-existing linear heterogeneities are introduced by mechanical weak seeds. We test various seed configurations to investigate the effect of i) two competing rift segments that propagate unilaterally, ii) linkage of two opposingly propagating rift segments, and iii) the combination of these configurations on stress re-orientation and rift linkage. Both the analog and numerical models show counter-intuitive rift deflection of two rift segments competing for linkage with an opposingly propagating segment. The deflection pattern can be explained by means of stress analysis in numerical experiments where stress re-orientation occurs locally and propagates across the model domain as rift segments propagate. Major stress re-orientations may occur locally, which means that faults and rift segment trends do not necessarily align perpendicularly to far-field extension directions. Our results show that strain localization and stress re-orientation are closely linked, mutually influence each other and may be an important factor for rift deflection among competing rift segments as observed in nature.

Timothy Chris Schmid et al.

Status: open (until 03 Jan 2023)

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Timothy Chris Schmid et al.

Timothy Chris Schmid et al.


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Short summary
Continental rifts form by linkage of individual rift segments and disturb the regional stress field. We use analog and numerical models of such rift segment interaction to investigate the linkage of deformation and stresses and subsequent stress deflections from the regional stress pattern. This local stress re-orientation eventually causes rift deflection when multiple rift segments compete for linkage with opposingly propagating segments and may explain rift deflection as observed in nature.