Sandbox experiments on basin inversion: testing the influence of basin orientation and basin fill

Panien, Marion; Schreurs, Guido; Pfiffner, Adrian (2005). Sandbox experiments on basin inversion: testing the influence of basin orientation and basin fill. Journal of structural geology, 27(3), pp. 433-445. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jsg.2004.11.001

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Analogue modelling experiments using brittle materials are performed to study the inversion of extensional structures. Asymmetric grabens of two different orientations are first created during a phase of extension and progressively filled. They are subsequently shortened in the same direction. The aim of our experiments is to determine factors affecting the style of deformation during inversion. We specifically investigate variations in thickness and distribution of strong and weak layers constituting the graben fill and in initial basin orientation. The main advantage of our experimental set-up is that we have a complete control on graben location, width, infill and orientation before inversion. The experiments show that shortening results only in limited reactivation of pre-existing normal faults. In general, forward thrusts and backthrusts cut across normal faults into the footwall of the graben. The forward thrusts either propagate parallel to the enveloping surface of faulted blocks or they cut across basin-limiting normal faults at various angles. The graben fill is mechanically extruded by displacement along forward thrusts that accommodate most of the shortening. Both pre-existing faults and weak graben fill act as zones of weakness during inversion and determine the orientation and location of both backthrusts and forward thrusts. The results of our experiments conform well to natural examples of inverted graben structures.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Schreurs, Guido


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Guido Schreurs

Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2016 14:09

Last Modified:

27 Jul 2016 09:08

Publisher DOI:





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