Spatial and temporal variations in fault activity during early development of rift polarity within the offshore Corinth rift, central Greece

Friday, 19 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Casey W Nixon1, Aaron Moyle2, Lisa Clare McNeill1, Rebecca E Bell3, Jonathan M Bull1 and Timothy Henstock1, (1)University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, (2)Mining Searches UK, Redruth, United Kingdom, (3)Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom
The Corinth rift, Greece, is a young, highly active rift. A combined dense network of marine geophysical data and onshore exposure makes Corinth a natural laboratory for investigating early rift and fault formation. Rifts commonly develop a primary polarity during their formation resulting from a dominant fault set. However, how this occurs and develops is less clear. Here we characterise this process by establishing how a dominant fault set develops within the Corinth rift. Using a high spatio-temporal resolution chronostratigraphic and rift fault model, we investigate the variations in the distribution of displacement and faulting along and across the rift axis; focussing on the partitioning of deformation between N- and S-dipping faults, at a temporal resolution of ca. 100 kyr or less.

Along-strike cumulative fault displacement profiles indicate overall equal distribution of strain between major S- and N-dipping faults over the last ca. 1.5 Myr. In detail, two peaks in cumulative displacement coincide with the early development of two discrete depocentres before ca. 600 ka. Since this time, displacement has become focussed on N-dipping faults with S-dipping faults becoming less active. Syn-rift isochore maps illuminate this change: a switch in rift polarity from a dominant N-thickening depocentre to a dominant S-thickening depocentre between ca. 530-420 kyr (a rapid change in rift structure and strain distribution). This change is accommodated by transfer of activity between major faults but also by formation of numerous non-basement cutting small faults. As major S-dipping faults decrease in slip rate from ca. 600 ka, they become segmented into smaller faults with variable slip rates. In contrast, N-dipping faults on the rift’s southern margin, with increased activity post ~0.5-0.4 Ma, become kinematically and geometrically linked with almost equal slip rates along strike by ca. 130 kyr, controlling the single major depocentre of the present day.

Our results show that the early evolution of a rift fault network can be complex but that a dominant fault set eventually forms even in the earliest stages of rifting. A switch in rift polarity is a progressive process with deformation becoming distributed before localizing onto a final dominant fault set, but this process can occur rapidly on a timescale of 100’s kyr.