The Effect of Authigenic Phyllosilicate Growth on the Mechanical Behaviour of Upper Crustal Faults

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Siân Evans1, Robert Holdsworth1, Jonathan Imber1, Shmuel Marco2, Rami Weinberger3 and Nicola De Paola4, (1)University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom, (2)Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, (3)Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, (4)University of Durham, Durham, DH1, United Kingdom
Deformation at shallow crustal depths is dominated by brittle processes, but it is increasingly recognised that diffusive mass transfer (DMT) processes and "ductile" folding also play a significant role in fault zone development. We present data from exhumed sections (<5 km depth) of the southern Dead Sea Fault System, Israel, an active continental transform fault that has accumulated 105 km of sinistral displacement since the Miocene. The faults juxtapose various wall rock lithologies (crystalline basement, carbonate and clastic cover), but the studied sections all have phyllosilicate-rich fault cores. Damage zones show a range of deformation mechanisms including pulverisation, pressure-solution and cataclasis.

Our results show that fault cores comprise three distinct types of fault gouge (alongside coarser-grained cataclasite): cataclastic gouge that is mineralogically similar to wall rock compositions; authigenic gouge that is dominated by Mg-rich smectite not present in adjacent formations; and mechanically entrained, folded shale gouge that is almost identical in mineralogy to a local shale protolith. Microstructural observations suggest authigenic gouge is the result of DMT processes, following an earlier phase of gouge formation through microfracturing and cataclasis. The low abundance of carbonate within fault cores suggests its dissolution is a contributing factor in authigenic smectite precipitation. Such mineralogical transformations may lead to significant changes in the frictional properties of fault zones, from materials of relatively high frictional strength (quartz, feldspars, dolomite, where μ = 0.6 - 0.85) to those with much lower frictional strengths, such as smectite (where μ can be as low as 0.15).

We demonstrate how the physical properties of faults may evolve over time when conditions allow precipitation of weak-phases in addition to brittle deformation, which may facilitate ingress of fluid into fault cores and enhance phyllosilicate development. The presence of both pulverisation textures and microfolds suggests interaction of these deformation styles may lead to changes in overall fault behaviour, from velocity-weakening and seismogenic where brittle processes dominate, to velocity-strengthening and aseismic when sufficient weak material has accumulated.