Pre-existing basement faults controlling deformation in the Jura Mountains fold-and-thrust belt: Insights from analogue models

Schori, Marc; Zwaan, Frank; Schreurs, Guido; Mosar, Jon (2021). Pre-existing basement faults controlling deformation in the Jura Mountains fold-and-thrust belt: Insights from analogue models. Tectonophysics, 814, p. 228980. Elsevier 10.1016/j.tecto.2021.228980

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Pre-existing faults in the mechanical basement are believed to play an important role in controlling deformation of the thin-skinned Jura Mountains fold-and-thrust belt, which constitutes the northernmost extension of the European Alps. We use brittle-viscous analogue models to investigate the influence of frontal and oblique basement steps on the subsequent evolution of structures during thin-skinned shortening. Vertical offset between two rigid baseplates (simulating the mechanical basement) causes the formation of reverse faults and grabens in the overlying brittle layers that are not reactivated during subsequent thin-skinned shortening. However, baseplate steps localise deformation, causing a temporary frontward propagation of deformation in an early stage and inhibiting propagation afterwards. Downward baseplate steps induce very strong deformation localisation and foster the formation of fault-bend folds. Models featuring upward steps develop step-controlled pop-up structures with imbricated fronts and viscous ramps that shorten dynamically with progressive contraction. We find that deformation localisation increases both with higher step-throws and lower obliquity (α) of the strike of the step (e.g. frontal step α = 0°). With increasing step-throws, α = 30° and α = 45° oblique upward-steps lead to a characteristic imbrication of the brittle cover with laterally confined thrust-slices and step-parallel oblique-thrusts, which rotate up to 15° about a vertical axis over time. Step-controlled backthrusts preceding the formation of thrust-slices do not show notable rotation and hence constitute excellent indicators for the orientation of oblique upward-steps. The topographic patterns of oblique-step models resemble individual thin-skinned structures of the Internal Jura (i.e. Pontarlier and Vuache fault zones, the nappe system SE of Oyonnax and the Chasseral anticline), strongly suggesting that pre-existing NNE-SSW and NW-SE striking oblique upward-steps in the basement controlled deformation in the overlying cover. Our model results may be applied to other thin-skinned fold-and-thrust belts worldwide that formed above pre-existing basement structures.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Tectonics

UniBE Contributor:

Zwaan, Frank and Schreurs, Guido


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Frank Zwaan

Date Deposited:

30 Jun 2021 15:48

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2021 03:08

Publisher DOI:





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