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Benchmarking numerical models of brittle thrust wedges

Buiter, Susanne J. H. and Schreurs, Guido and Albertz, Markus and Gerya, Taras V. and Kaus, Boris and Landry, Walter and le Pourhiet, Laetitia and Mishin, Yury and Egholm, David L. and Cooke, Michele and Maillot, Bertrand and Thieulot, Cedric and Crook, Tony and May, Dave and Souloumiac, Pauline and Beaumont, Christopher (2016) Benchmarking numerical models of brittle thrust wedges. Journal of Structural Geology, 92 . pp. 140-177. ISSN 0191-8141.

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We report quantitative results from three brittle thrust wedge experiments, comparing numerical results directly with each other and with corresponding analogue results. We first test whether the participating codes reproduce predictions from analytical critical taper theory. Eleven codes pass the stable wedge test, showing negligible internal deformation and maintaining the initial surface slope upon horizontal translation over a frictional interface. Eight codes participated in the unstable wedge test that examines the evolution of a wedge by thrust formation from a subcritical state to the critical taper geometry. The critical taper is recovered, but the models show two deformation modes characterised by either mainly forward dipping thrusts or a series of thrust pop-ups. We speculate that the two modes are caused by differences in effective basal boundary friction related to different algorithms for modelling boundary friction. The third experiment examines stacking of forward thrusts that are translated upward along a backward thrust. The results of the seven codes that run this experiment show variability in deformation style, number of thrusts, thrust dip angles and surface slope. Overall, our experiments show that numerical models run with different numerical techniques can successfully simulate laboratory brittle thrust wedge models at the cm-scale. In more detail, however, we find that it is challenging to reproduce sandbox-type setups numerically, because of frictional boundary conditions and velocity discontinuities. We recommend that future numerical-analogue comparisons use simple boundary conditions and that the numerical Earth Science community defines a plasticity test to resolve the variability in model shear zones.

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May, Dave0000-0003-2471-7498
Additional Information:© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Received 13 July 2015, Revised 29 February 2016, Accepted 8 March 2016, Available online 16 March 2016.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Subject Keywords:Thrust wedges; Benchmarking; Critical taper; Shear zones; Numerical modelling; Plasticity
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20161202-074802894
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Official Citation:Susanne J.H. Buiter, Guido Schreurs, Markus Albertz, Taras V. Gerya, Boris Kaus, Walter Landry, Laetitia le Pourhiet, Yury Mishin, David L. Egholm, Michele Cooke, Bertrand Maillot, Cedric Thieulot, Tony Crook, Dave May, Pauline Souloumiac, Christopher Beaumont, Benchmarking numerical models of brittle thrust wedges, Journal of Structural Geology, Volume 92, November 2016, Pages 140-177, ISSN 0191-8141, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:72512
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:02 Dec 2016 23:03
Last Modified:18 Nov 2020 18:57

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