Frictional controls on high-angle reverse faulting during compressional basin inversion

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Simon Alder1, Steven A.F. Smith1, Telemaco Tesei2 and Cristiano Collettini3, (1)University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, (2)University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy, (3)Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Large normal faults are often reactivated as high-angle reverse faults during compressional basin inversion. Prevailing models to explain steep reverse slip call upon significant fluid overpressure. Though such models are consistent with some seismological data and field observations from incipient (low-displacement) reverse faults, they remain largely untested in the case of basin-scale faults.

We present field and experimental data from the >200 km long Moonlight Fault Zone in New Zealand, an Oligocene basin-bounding normal fault that reactivated in the Miocene as a high-angle reverse fault (present dip angle 65°-75°). Excellent exposures of the fault zone exhumed from c. 4-8 km depth are found in creek sections along the entire strike length. Wall rocks are mainly quartz-albite-muscovite-chlorite schists with a strong foliation that is everywhere sub-parallel to the Moonlight Fault (i.e. dip angle 65°-75°). Although the overall structure of the fault zone changes significantly along strike in response to wall rock composition, the <5 metre thick fault core everywhere contains interconnected layers of foliated cataclasite rich in authigenically-grown chlorite and muscovite/illite. Microstructural evidence suggests deformation in the fault core by a combination of cataclasis, frictional slip along phyllosilicate seams and dissolution-precipitation.

Single-direct and double-direct friction experiments were performed with the BRAVA apparatus (INGV, Rome) on saturated wafers (e.g. with intact foliation) of foliated cataclasite at normal stresses up to 75 MPa. The foliated cataclasites have a friction coefficient of <0.25 and negligible frictional healing. In combination with dissolution-precipitation mechanisms, a friction coefficient of <0.25 can account for slip on high-angle reverse faults if accompanied by only moderately high fluid pressures. Our results indicate that friction may be equally as important as fluid pressure during compressional basin inversion.