Fold localization at pre-existing normal faults: field observations and analogue modelling of the Achental structure, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria

van Kooten, Willemijn Sarah Maria Theresia; Ortner, Hugo; Willingshofer, Ernst; Sokoutis, Dimitrios; Gruber, Alfred; Sausgruber, Thomas

Within the Northern Calcareous Alps (NCA) fold-and-thrust belt of the Eastern Alps, multiple pre-shortening deformation phases have contributed to the structural grain that controlled localization of deformation at later stages. In particular, Jurassic rifting and opening of the Alpine Tethys led to the formation of extensional basins at the northern margin of the Apulian plate. Subsequent Cretaceous shortening within the Northern Calcareous Alps produced the enigmatic Achental structure, which forms a sigmoidal transition zone between two E–W-striking major synclines. One of the major complexities of the Achental structure is that all structural elements are oblique to the Cretaceous direction of shortening. Its sigmoidal form was, therefore, proposed to be a result of forced folding at the boundaries of the Jurassic Achental basin. This study analyses the structural evolution of the Achental structure through integrating field observations with crustal-scale physical analogue modelling to elucidate the influence of pre-existing crustal heterogeneities on oblique basin inversion. From brittle–ductile models that include a weak basal décollement, we infer that oblique shortening of pre-existing extensional faults can lead to the localization of deformation at the pre-existing structure and predicts thrust and fold structures that are consistent with field observations. Consequently, the Achental low-angle thrust and sigmoidal fold train was able to localize at the former Jurassic basin margin, with a vergence opposite to the controlling normal fault, creating the characteristic sigmoidal morphology during a single phase of NW-directed shortening.

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van Kooten, Willemijn Sarah Maria Theresia / Ortner, Hugo / Willingshofer, Ernst / et al: Fold localization at pre-existing normal faults: field observations and analogue modelling of the Achental structure, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Willemijn Sarah Maria Theresia van Kooten et al.

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