Effects of sedimentation on rift segment evolution and rift interaction in orthogonal and oblique extensional settings: Insights from analogue models analysed with 4D X-ray computed tomography and digital volume correlation techniques

Frank Zwaan, Guido Schreurs, Jürgen Adam

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During the early evolution of rift systems, individual rift segments often develop along pre-existing crustal weaknesses that are frequently non-continuous and laterally offset. As extension progresses, these initial rift segments establish linkage in order to develop a continuous rift system that might eventually lead to continental break-up. Previous analogue and numerical modelling efforts have demonstrated that rift interaction structures are influenced by structural inheritances, detachment layers, magma bodies, rate and direction of extension, as well as distance between rift segments on rift interaction structures. Yet to date, the effects of syn-tectonic sediments have been largely ignored or only modelled in 2D. In this study we therefore assess the influence of sedimentation on rift segment and rift transfer zone evolution in orthogonal and oblique extension settings, by means of 3D brittle-ductile analogue models, analysed with 4D X-ray computed tomography (XRCT or CT) methods and 3D digital volume correlation (DVC) techniques. Our models show that syn-rift sedimentation does not significantly influence the large-scale evolution of rift and transfer zone structures. Nevertheless, syn-rift sedimentation can strongly affect rift-internal structures: sedimentary loading reinforces the rift wedge, decreasing rift wedge faulting and increases subsidence within the rift basin. These effects are strongest in areas where most accommodation space is available, that is, along the main rift segments. In contrast, rift segments that undergo high degrees of oblique extension develop less accommodation space and are therefore less influenced by sedimentary loading. Rift interaction structures are least affected by sediment influx, as they experience relatively low amounts of subsidence and little accommodation space is available. Our conclusions are valid for the early stages of rift development, when a high sediment influx could delay continental break-up, as other processes are likely to become dominant during later stages of continental extension. Finally state-of-the-art DVC analysis of CT data proves to be a powerful tool to extract and fully quantify 3D internal model deformation in great detail and could be useful for comparing and calibrating analogue and numerical models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-133
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date8 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Analogue modelling Extensional tectonics Sedimentation Transfer zone X-ray computed tomography (XRCT) Digital volume correlation (DVC) analysis

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