Analogue Modelling of Inverted Oblique Rift Systems


  • A. Amilibia
  • Ken Mc Clay University of London
  • F. Sàbat Universitat de Barcelona.
  • J.A. Muñoz Universitat de Barcelona.
  • E. Roca Universitat de Barcelona.



Analogue modelling, Oblique and offset rifts, Tectonic inversion, Atlas Mountains, Donbas Fold belt


The geometric evolution of brittle fault systems in inverted oblique and offset rift systems has been simulated using scaled sandbox analogue models. Dry fine-grained quartz sand was used to represent the brittle upper crust. Extensional faults geometries in the models were governed by the geometry and orientation of a stretching zone at the base of the models. Oblique rift models were characterized by segmented en-echelon border fault systems trending parallel to the rift axis and the underlying zone of basement stretching. Offset rift models promoted highly-segmented border faults as well as offset sub-basins within the rift. In both types of models, intra-rift fault arrays were oriented sub-perpendicular to the extension direction. Inversion of the oblique and offset extensional models was achieved by horizontal shortening. This resulted in partial inversion of the border and intra-rift faults as well as the formation of new reverse faults. The geometries, distribution, orientations and number of these new reverse faults were strongly controlled by the earlier-formed fault extensional architectures. At the margins of the rift zone, shortening was mainly accommodated by partial inversion of the border faults together with the formation of hanging-wall bypass faults and footwall shortcut thrusts. Inversion of the offset rift models produced reactivation of the extensional accommodation zones as soft-linked transfer zones between new thrust faults. The analogue model results have been compared with natural inversion structures in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Ukrainian Donbas fold belt. The analogue modelling results suggest that the High Atlas formed as the result of oblique inversion of an oblique rift system, and the contractional structures in the Ukranian Donbas belt were generated by partial inversion of the earlier-formed Donbas extensional graben via two major newly developed short-cuts that uplifted and exhumed the basin.

Author Biographies

Ken Mc Clay, University of London

Fault Dynamics Research Group, Geology Department, Royal Holloway.

F. Sàbat, Universitat de Barcelona.

Departament de Geodinàmica i Geofísica, Facultat de Geologia.

J.A. Muñoz, Universitat de Barcelona.

Departament de Geodinàmica i Geofísica, Facultat de Geologia.

E. Roca, Universitat de Barcelona.

Departament de Geodinàmica i Geofísica, Facultat de Geologia.


Amilibia, A., 2002. Inversión Tectónica en la Cordillera de Domeyko, andes del Norte de Chile. Doctoral thesis. Universitat de Barcelona, 174 pp.

Anderson, E.M., 1951. The dynamics of faulting and dyke formation with applications to Britain. Olivier and Boyd (eds.). Edinburgh, 203pp.

Ait Brahim, L., Chotin, P., Hinaj, S., Abdelouafi, A., El Adraoui, A., Nakcha, C., Dhont, D., Charroud, M., Sossey Alaoui, F., Amrhar, M., Bouaza, A., Tabyaoui, H., Chaouni, A., 2002. Paleostress evolution in the Moroccan African margin from Triassic to Present. Tectonophysics, 357, 187-205.

Bartholomew, I.D., Peters, J.M., Powell, C.M., 1993. Regional structural evolution of the North Sea: oblique-slip and reactivation of basement lineaments. In: Parker, J.R. (ed.). Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe: Proceedings of the 4th Conference. London, Geological Society of London, 1109-1122.

Beauchamp, W., Barazangi, M., Demnati, A., El Alji, M., 1996. Intracontinental Rifting and Inversion: Missour Basin and Atlas Mountains, Morocco. American Association of Petroleum Geologist Bulletin, 80(9), 1459-1482.

Brun, J-P., Tron, V., 1993. Development of the North Viking Graben: inferences from laboratory modelling. Sedimentary Geology, 86, 31-51.

Brun, J.P., Nalpas, T., 1996. Graben inversion in nature and experiments. Tectonics, 15, 677-687.

Buchanan, P.G., McClay, K.R., 1992. Experiments on basin inversion above reactivated domino faults. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 9, 486-500.

Byerlee, J.D., 1978. Friction of Rocks. Birkhauser Verlag, Basel, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 116. Colletta, B., Letouzey, J., Pinedo, R., Ballard, J.F., Bale, P., 1991. Computerized X-ray tomography analysis of sandbox models: examples of thin skinned thrust systems. Geology, 19, 1063-1067.

Djebbar, T., 2001. Structural evolution of the Algerian Saharan Atlas. Doctoral thesis. Royal Holloway University of London, 373pp.

Dooley, T., 1994. Geometries and kinematics of strike-slip fault systems: insights from physical modelling and field studies. Doctoral thesis. Royal Holloway, University of London, 463 pp.

Dooley, T., McClay, K.R., Bonora, M., 1999. 4D Evolution of Segmented Strike-slip Fault Systems: Applications to NW Europe. In: Fleet, A.J., Boldy, S.A.R. (eds.). Proceedings of the 5th Conference-Petroleum Geology of NW Europe. London, Geological Society of London, 215-225.

Dubois, A., Odonne, F., Massonnat, G., Lebourg, T., Fabre, R., 2002. Anallogue modelling of fault reactivation: tectonic inversion and oblique remobilisation of grabens. Journal of Structural Geology, 24, 1741-1752.

Eisenstadt, G., Withjack, M.O., 1995. Estimating inversion: Results from Clay models. In: Buchanan, J.G., Buchanan, P.G., (eds.). Basin Inversion. Geological society Special Publication, 88, 119-136.

Frizon de Lamotte, D., Crespo-Blanc, A., Saint-Bézar, B., Comas, M., Fernàndez, M., Zeyen, H., Ayarza, P., RobertCharrue, C., Chalouan, A., Zizi, M., Teixell, A., Arboleya, M.L., Alvarez-Lobato, F., Julivert, M., Michard, A., 2004.

TRANSMED Transect I. In: Cavazza, W., Roure, F., Spakman, W., Stampfli, G.M., Ziegler, P.A. (eds.). The TRANSMED Atlas-The Mediterranean Region from Crust to Mantle. Berlin Heidelberg, Springer, 141 pp.

Giambiagi, L.B., Alvarez, P.P., Godoy, E., Ramos, V.A., 2003. The control of pre-existing extensional structures on the evolution of the southern sector of the Aconcagua fold and thrust belt, southern Andes. Tectonophysics, 369, 1-19.

Gomez, F., Allmendinger, R., Barazangi, M., Er-Raji, A., Dahmani., M., 1998. Crustal shortening and vertical strain partitioning in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Tectonics, 17(4), 520-533.

Guimerà, J., Alonso, A., Mas, J.R., 1995. Inversion of an extensional-ramp basin by a newly formed thrust: The Cameros Basin (N. Spain). In: Buchanan, J.G., Buchanan, P.G. (eds.). Basin Inversion. Geological Society of London, Special Publication, 88, 433-453.

Guiraud, R., 1998. Mesozoic rifting and basin inversion along the northern African Tethyan margin: an overiew. In: MacGregor, D.S., Moody, R.T.J., Clark-Lowes, D.D. (eds.). Petroleum Geology of North Africa, London, Geological Society, Special Publication, 132, 217-229.

Koopman, A., Speksnijder, A., Horsfield, W.T., 1987. Sandbox models studies of inversion Tectonics. Tectonophysics, 137, 379-388.

Lemon, N.M., Mahmood, T., 1994. Two and three dimensional analogue modelling of extensional faults systems with application to the North West Shelf, Western Australia. Australian Petroleum Exploration Association Journal, 34, 555-565.

Liu, H., McClay, K.R., Powell, D., 1992. Physical models of thrust wedges. In: McClay, K.R. (ed.). Thrust Tectonics. London, Chapman and Hall, 71-81.

Maystrenko, Yu., Stovba, S., Stephenson, R., Bayer, U., Menyoli, E., Gajewski, D., Huebscher, Ch., Rabbel, W., Saintot, A., Starostenko, V., Thybo, H., Tolkunov, A., 2003. Crustalscale pop-up structure in cratonic lithosphere: DOBRE deep seismic reflection study of the donbas fold belt, Ukraine. Geology, 31, 733-736.

McClay, K.R., 1990a. Extensional fault systems in sedimentary basins: a review of analogue model studies. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 7, 206-233.

McClay, K.R., 1990b. Deformation mechanics in analogue models of extensional fault systems. In: Knipe, R.J., Rutter, E.H. (eds.). Deformation mechanisms, rheology and tectonics. London, Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 54, 445-453.

McClay, K.R., 1995. 2-D & 3-D Analogue Modelling of Extensional Fault Structures: Templates fore Seismic Interpretation. Petroleum Geoscience, 1, 163-178.

McClay, K.R., Ellis, P.G., 1987. Geometries of extensional fault systems developed in model experiments. Geology, 15, 341-344.

McClay, K.R., White, M.J., 1995. Analogue modelling of orthogonal and oblique rifting. Marine and Pertoleum Geology, 2(2), 137-151.

McClay, K.R., Dooley, T., Whitehouse, P., Mills M., 2002. 4-D evolution of rift systems: Insights from scaled physical models. American Association of Petroleum Geologist Bulletin, 86(6), 935-959.

McClay, K.R., Whitehouse, P.S., Amilibia, A., DeVera, J., Djebbar, T., 2004. 4D Evolution of fault systems in sedimentary basins: a review. In: PESA Eastern Australian Basins Symposium II, Adelaida, Australia, 26pp.

McClay, K.R., Dooley, T., Whitehouse, P.S., Anadon-Ruiz, S., in press. 4D analogue models of extensional fault systems in asymmetric rifts: 3D visualizations and comparisons with natural examples. In: 6th Petroleum Geology conference, 2004, London.

Morley, C.K., 1999. How successful are analogue models in addressing the influence of pre-existing fabrics on the rift structures? Journal of Structural Geology, 21, 1267-1274.

Mulugeta, G., Koyi, H., 1987. Three-dimensional geometry and kinematics of experimental piggyback thrusting. Geology,

, 1052-1056.

Oudmayer, B.C., Dejager, J., 1993. Fault reactivation and oblique-slip in Southern North Sea. In: Parker, J.R. (ed.). Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe: Proceedings of the 4th Conference. London, Geological Society of London, 1281-1292.

Panien, M., Schreurs, G., Pfiffner, A., 2005. Sandbox experiments on basin inversion: testing the influence of basin orientation and basin fill. Journal of Structural Geology, 27(3), 433-445.

Piqué, A., Tricart, P., Guiraud, R., Laville, E., Bouaziz, S., Amrhar, M., Ait Ouani, R., 2002. The Mesozoic-Cenozoic Atlas Belt (North Africa): an overview. Geodinamica Acta, 15, 185-208.

Salas, R., Guimerà, J., Mas, R., Martín-Closas, C., Meléndez, A., Alonso, A., 2001. Evolution of the Mesozoic Central Iberian Rift System and its Cainozoic inversion, (Iberian chain). In: Ziegler, P.A., Cavazza, W., Robertson, A.H.F., Crasquin-Soleau, S. (eds.). Peri-Tethys Memoir 6: PeriTethyan Rift/Wrench Basins and Passive Margins. Mém. Mus. natn. Hist. Nat., 186, 145-185.

Saintot, A., Stephenson, R., Stovba, S., Maystrenko, Yu., 2003. Structures associated with inversion of the Donbas Foldbelt

(Ukraine and Russia). Tectonophysics, 373, 181-207.

Serra, S., Nelson, R.A., 1989. Caly modelling of rift asymmetry and associated structures. Tectonophysics, 153, 307-312.

Sibson, R.H., 1995. Selective fault reactivation during basin inversion: potential for fluid redistribution through faultvalve action. In: Buchanan, J.G., Buchanan, P.G. (eds.). Bain Inversion. Geological Society of London, Special Publications, 88, 3-19.

Storti, F., McClay, K.R., 1995. Influence of syntectonic sedimentation of thrust wedges in analogue models. Geology, 23(11), 999-1002.

Teixell, A., Arboleya, M.L., Julivert, M., Charroud, M., 2003. Tectonic shortening and topography in the central High Atlas (Morocco). Tectonics, 22 (5), 1051, doi: 10.1029/-2002TC001460.

Tron, V., Brun, J-P., 1991. Experiments on oblique rifting in brittle-ductile systems. Tectonophysics, 188, 71-84.

Vendeville, B., Cobbold, P.R., Davy, P., Brun, J-P., Choukroune, P., 1987. Physical models of extensional tectonics at various scales. In: Coward, M.P., Dewey, J.F., Hancock, P.L. (eds.). Continental extensional tectonics, Geological Society of London Special Publication, 28, 95-107.

Vergés, J., García-Senz, J., 2001. Mesozoic evolution and Cainozoic inversion of the Pyrenean Rift. In: Ziegler, P.A., Cavazza, W., Robertson, A.H.F., Crasquin-Soleau, S. (eds.). Peri-Tethys Memoir 6: Peri-Tethyan Rift/Wrench Basins and Passive Margins. Mém. Mus. natn. Hist. Nat., 186, 187-212.

Withjack, M.O., Jamison, W.R., 1986. Deformation produced by oblique rifting. Tectonophysics, 126, 99-124.

Withjack, M.O., Islam, Q.T., La Pointe, P.R., 1995. Normal faults and their Hangingwall deformation: an experimental duty. Bulletin American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 79, 1-18.







Most read articles by the same author(s)

<< < 1 2