Seismic anisotropy in the Morcles nappe shear zone: Implications for seismic imaging of crustal scale shear zones

Almqvist, Bjarne S.G.; Hirt, Ann M.; Herwegh, Marco; Ebert, Andreas; Walter, Jens M.; Leiss, Bernd; Burlini, Luigi (2013). Seismic anisotropy in the Morcles nappe shear zone: Implications for seismic imaging of crustal scale shear zones. Tectonophysics, 603, pp. 162-178. Elsevier 10.1016/j.tecto.2013.05.025

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Microstructures and textures of calcite mylonites from the Morcles nappe large-scale shear zone in southwestern Switzerland develop principally as a function of 1) extrinsic physical parameters including temperature, stress, strain, strain rate and 2) intrinsic parameters, such as mineral composition. We collected rock samples at a single location from this shear zone, on which laboratory ultrasonic velocities, texture and microstructures were investigated and quantified. The samples had different concentration of secondary mineral phases (< 5 up to 40 vol.%). Measured seismic P wave anisotropy ranges from 6.5% for polyphase mylonites (~ 40 vol.%) to 18.4% in mylonites with < 5 vol.% secondary phases. Texture strength of calcite is the main factor governing the seismic P wave anisotropy. Measured S wave splitting is generally highest in the foliation plane, but its origin is more difficult to explain solely by calcite texture. Additional texture measurements were made on calcite mylonites with low concentration of secondary phases (≤ 10 vol.%) along the metamorphic gradient of the shear zone (15 km distance). A systematic increase in texture strength is observed moving from the frontal part of the shear zone (anchimetamorphism; 280 °C) to the higher temperature, basal part (greenschist facies; 350–400 °C). Calculated P wave velocities become increasingly anisotropic towards the high-strain part of the nappe, from an average of 5.8% in the frontal part to 13.2% in the root of the basal part. Secondary phases raise an additional complexity, and may act either to increase or decrease seismic anisotropy of shear zone mylonites. In light of our findings we reinterpret the origin of some seismically reflective layers in the Grône–Zweisimmen line in southwestern Switzerland (PNR20 Swiss National Research Program). We hypothesize that reflections originate in part from the lateral variation in textural and microstructural arrangement of calcite mylonites in shear zones.

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:

Herwegh, Marco and Ebert, Andreas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Marco Herwegh

Date Deposited:

08 Aug 2014 12:48

Last Modified:

06 Oct 2015 09:50

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Texture, Microstructure, Seismic anisotropy, Second phases, Carbonate mylonites, Metamorphic gradient




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