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Basin Analysis - Principles & Applications

Friday, May 17, 2013

3:25 PM

Lithostatic stress - the simplest view of applied forces simple to the
weight of the overlying rock columns
Deviatoric stresses - the difference between the actual stress and the
lithostatic stress is a tectonic contribution known as deviatoric stress. It
can be either tensile or compressive.
In an elastic solid there is a clear relationship between the stresses and
resultant strains. The exact relationship depends on material properties
known as Young's modulus and Poissons's ratio. Where only one of the
principal axes is non-zero, a uniaxial state of stress is said to occur and
the relation between stress and strain is called Hooke's Law. If there are
two non-zero components of principal stress, we have the condition
termed plane stress. In an analogous fashion, uniaxial strain and plane
strain refer to the coordinate system of principal strains.
The bending movement is related to the local radius of curvature by a
coefficient called flexural rigidity.
The temperature gradient in a convecting fluid should be adiabatic, that
is, the temperature increase with depth is caused purely by compression
due to the overlying rock column.
Normal stresses: those that act perpendicular to a surface
Shear stresses: those that act parallel to the surface
The pressure is the mean value of the normal stresses.
Strain: deformation of a solid
Normal strain is simply the ratio of the change in length of a solid to its
original length.
Shear strain is defined as one half of the decrease in a right angle in a
solid when it is deformed.
Isostacy: support of the oceanic and continental plates by the mantles
thru hydrostatic equilibrium (Archimedes Principle)
No shear stresses exist on surfaces oriented perpendicular to the
principle axes, and normal stresses in the principal axis coordinate
system are known as principal stresses.
Elastic deformation:
For relatively low temperatures, pressures and applied forces,
almost all solid materials behave elastically. The relation between
stress and elastic strain is linear. However, at high temperatures
and pressures or high levels of stress rocks do not behave
Flexure in two dimensions:

1. Flexure results from vertical forces, horizontal forces and torques

9beding moments) in combination. Horizontal loads are commonly
neglected in geodynamical problems.
2. The bending movement in this integration of the fibre (normal)
stresses on cross-sections of the plate acting over the distance to
the midline of the plate. The bending movement is related to the
local radius of curvature of the plate by a coefficient called the
flexural rigidity. Flexural rigidity is proportional to the cube of the
elastic thickness.
3. A general flexural equation can be derived which expresses the
deflection of the plate in terms of the vertical and horizontal loads,
bending moment and flexural rigidity. This equation can readily be
adapted for use in the study of geological problems.
The flexure of the plate depends on its thickness, elastic properties and
the nature of the applied load.
High heat flow regions on continents: generally correspond to active
volcanic areas, regions of extensional tectonics.
Low heat flow regions: continental collision zones.
In areas devoid of active tectonics and vulcanicity, the heat flow
appears to be inversely correlated to age of the rocks. This can be
explained by the decreasing abundance with age of the radioactive
heat-producing isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium.
-The process of conduction and convection are differing importance in
different zones. In the lithosphere heat is transported primarily through
conduction, whereas the mantel uses convection of heat from deep
interior. Convection is a much faster process of heat transfer than

In areas devoid of active tectonics and vulcanicity, the heat flow

appears to be inversely correlated to the age of the rocks.

Granites produce large amounts of radiogenic heat, whereas basalts

and peridotites produce almost no radiogenic heat.
"Variation of temperature with depth"
Lateral variations in temperatures might be due to topographic
effects of sea-land boundaries.
The problem also arises where the lithosphere is stretched over a
relatively narrow zone, as is common in strike-slip basins, so that
there is both upward and lateral loss of heat by conduction.
As is it moved away from the ridge crest, the oceanic lithosphere
cools and contracts. This increases the density of the oceanic
lithosphere and causes a higher lithostatic stress on the underlying
Temperature changes cause large changes in stress but relatively
small changes in density

Bouguer gravity anomaly

CHAPTER 3: Basins due to lithospheric stretching

Rifts are areas of crustal thinning, demonstrated by the shallow
depth of the Moho, high surface heat flows, volcanic activity,
seismic activity with predominantly extensional focal mechanism
solutions, negative Bouguer gravity anomalies and commonly
elevated rift margin topography.
At higher strain rates, localized rifts may evolve into passive
Passive continental margins are inactive, and tectonics are
dominated by gravity-driven collapse, halokinesis and growth
faulting. Heat flows near normal .
2 types: Volcanic and non-volcanic
Igneous activity is a common feature of some continental rift and
passive margins are the point of break-up. (volcanically active
passive margins and continental rifts stand elevated
topographically compared to nonvolcanic equivalents.) The
amount of melt generated and its composition is related to plate
thickness, excess temperature, stretch factor and percentage of
Rifts: brittle extension of the crust, causing extensional fault
arrays and fault-controlled subsidence, and thermal relaxation
following ductile extension of the lithosphere leading to regional
postrift subsidence.
In areas devoid of active tectonics and volcanicity, continental
heat flow values appear to be strongly correlated with the type of
underlying crust
Rift zones characterized by high levels of earthquake activity.
Seismic studies show that the Moho is elevated beneath rift zones.
Rift zones have characteristic gravity signatures - typically a long
wavelength Bouguer gravity low, with sometimes a secondary
high located in the center of the rift zone.

Rift zones are typified by normal dip-slip faults with a variable

number of strike-slip faults depending on the orientation of the rift
axis in relation to the bulk extension direction.
Passive margins involve strongly attenuated continental crust
stretched over a region of 50-150km, and exceptionally as much
as 400-500km, overlain by thin or thick sediment prisms.
Generally seismically inactive and in mature examples heat flows
are near-normal. Characterized by seaward thickening prisms of
marine sediments overlying a faulted basement with synrift
sedimentary sequences, often of continental origin.
Archetypes of passive margins:
Volcanically-active margins: characterized by extrusive
basalts, lower crustal igneous accretions, and significant
uplift at the time of break-up. Continental extension and
ocean spreading are thought to be intimately related to
mantle plume activity.
Non-volcanic margins: lack evidence of high thermal activity
at the time of break-up. Margins may be sediment starved
with thin sediment veneers or sediment-nourished with very
think post rift sedimentary prisms overlying a small number
of tilted upper crustal fault blocks and a wide region of midlower crustal extension.
Active/Passive Rifting
Active Rifting: deformation is associated with the impingement on
the base of the lithosphere of a thermal plume or sheet.
Conductive heating from the mantle plume, heat transfer from
magma generation on convective heating may cause the
lithosphere to thin. If heat fluxes out of the asthenosphere are
large enough, relatively rapid thinning of the continental
lithosphere causes isostatic uplift. Tensional stresses generated
but uplift may then promote rifting.
Passive Rifting: tensional stresses in the continental lithosphere
cause it to fail, allowing hot mantle rocks to penetrate the
lithosphere. Crustal doming and volcanic activity are only
secondary processes. Rifting takes place first, and doming may
follow but not precede it. Rifting is therefore a passive response to
a regional stress field.
Real world examples may exhibit aspects of each

Main mechanism for subsidence is cooling following lithospheric

thinning: the upwelling of asthenosphere is followed by thermal
Subsidence may also result from phase changes (gabbro to
eclogite) in the lower crustal or mantle-lithosphere rocks.
Rheology of the lithosphere: controlled by temperature and
Mid-ocean ridge crests are generally at about 2.5 km water depth,
suggesting that zero-age oceanic lithosphere under 2.5km of
water is in equilibrium with a "standard" continental lithospheric
column. Therefore, during rifting, the asthenosphere should
theoretically not be able to break through the thinned continental
lithosphere as long as initial subsidence is less than 2.5km.
Oceanic crusts should not be found at shallower water depths.

Stretching is uniform with depth
Stretching is instantaneous
Stretching is by pure shear
The necking depth is zero
Airy Isostacy is assumed to operate throughout
There is no radiogenic heat production
Hear flow is in one dimension (vertically) by conduction
There is no magmatic activity
The asthenosphere has a uniform temperature at the base of
the lithosphere

Non-uniform models (depth-dependent) stretching: discontinuous and

Pure vs. Simple Shear
Simple: the lithosphere by extend asymmetrically where the zone of
ductile sub crustal stretching is relayed laterally from the zone of
brittle crustal stretching. Results in a physical separation of the zone of
fault-controlled extension from the zone of upwelled asthenosphere.
(3 zones to this shear) Can expect tectonic uplift in the region
overlying the lower crust and mantle thinning.
Stretching of the lithosphere combined with unloading along major
detachment faults can result in the uprooting of mantle rocks in their
footballs. These are called "core complexes" and "gneissic domes".

Lateral heat loss during prolonged period of rifting is caused by the

large lateral temperature gradients set up by lithospheric thinning. The
longer the rifting event, the more important lateral heat loss and uplift
of a basin margins are likely to be. Lateral heat conduction is also
important in narrow basins such as pull-aparts in strike-slip zones.
Effects of lateral heat flow are greatest near the basin edge where
horizontal temperature gradients are largest. The effects decrease
towards the center of the basin.
Some have argued that continental stretching is in some cases
associated with mantle plume activity. Such activity raises the local
asthenospheric temperatures.
Large amounts of stretching are likely to promote the segregation of
melts and their migration into the overlying crust. This melt
segregation model assumes that a basaltic melt segregated from
asthenosphere that has upwelled to replace stretched lithosphere. The
segregated melt can be considered to either constitute new oceanic
crust or to be intruded into or to underplate the stretched lithosphere.
Necking is the very large scale thinning of the lithosphere caused by
its mechanical extension. Necking should take place around one of its
string layers.
Knowing the strain rate history or total stretch factor is important as a
basis for predicting the geothermal gradient and heat flow history of
basin sediments, as well as in showing the role of rift structures in
accommodating basin sediments.


Flexure is the long wavelength of finite strength caused by the
application of an extensional force system.
Flexure of the lithosphere is most clearly demonstrated at oceanic
islands, seamount chains, ocean trenches and foreland basins.
Lithospheric flexure also supports sediment loads in most sedimentary
basins. The characteristic signature of lithospheric flexure is a
negative free air gravity anomaly (at sea) or a negative Bouguer
anomaly (on land).
The oceanic lithosphere appears to become stronger as it ages and
cools, but it does not weaken in its ability to support loads with time
since loading.

Flexure of the oceanic lithosphere take place at:

Oceanic trenches, mi-ocean ridges, seamount chains and

individual oceanic volcanic islands.
Flexure of the continental crust takes place at:
- sites of rifting, strike-slip faults, at passive margins and most
emphatically at sites of plate convergence
The maximum deflection for a broken plate of the same flexural
rigidity and under the same vertical load is trice that of an unbroken
The continental elastic lithosphere responds differently to the oceanic
lithosphere on all scales of deformation. The continents appear to
accumulate strains over long periods of geologic time whereas the
oceanic lithosphere remains relatively intact over its short lifetime of
up to about 180 Myr.
Other mechanisms affecting the flexure of the continental lithosphere
are the possible decoupling of a strong upper crust from a strong
underlying mantle during plate bending.
Foreland basins are dynamically linked to associate orogenic belts.
3 possible mechanisms for the driving forces responsible for crustal
1: gravity sliding
2: gravity spreading
3: horizontal deviatoric push
Critical taper theory:
Belief that the orogenic wedges behave as plastic entities as a result
of the interfingering of a large number of thrust sheets into a
mechanically interdependent system.
Predicted patters of deformation in the orogenic wedge resulting from
externally imposed changes in its geometry. The most important
change results from accretion. Two types:
1: frontal accretion
2: underplating


Dynamic topography: the topography remaining after the removal of
isostatic effects from the observed topography.
" the vertical displacement of the Earth's surface generated in
response to flow in the mantle". It is therefore distinct from

isostatic topography generated by near-surface density contrasts

such as crustal thickness changes.

Extra notes:
Convection is vertical (up-down) motions that result from the density
changes that occur when part of a fluid is heated and expands.
So it depends on the fluids density, gravity (because vertical motion!),
the amount of expansion the fluid undergoes, the amount of heat
difference, the thickness of the fluid layer, the efficiency by which the
fluid conducts heat (perfect conduction would negate the need to
convect!) and how resistant the fluid is to flow.
Strength is a measure of a materials ability to withstand an applied
stress without breaking (rupturing) in some way.
The results of the upwelling of the asthenosphere are high heat flow,
negative Bouguer anomalies, and often surface volcanism.
Isostasy is all about floating.
Gravitational stress (the weight) of a floating object causes
displacement of the fluid, so parts of the object submerge.
The submerged parts experience buoyancy because of the pressure
difference between their tops and bottoms.
Floating happens when these two forces are equally balanced.
Orogenic wedge evolution can be modelled using Critical Taper Theory.
Critical Taper Theory describes the balance of forces within a wedge of
rocks being thrust along an inclines detachment
Pratt isostasy: Heating by a hot plume in the asthenosphere decreased
the lithospheric density and established long wavelength topography
at the surface. This topography is static, as the isostatic calculation
describes stable floating. But the hot plume is not static. Its viscosity
means the buoyancy-related stresses that drive its rise can be
transmitted into the lithosphere above it. This means an additional
push at the base of the lithosphere, lifting it up higher still. This is
called dynamic topography.

Continental collision is unlike subduction in that the

convergent plates have to do work against gravity, rather than being
assisted by it (slab falling).

The continental lithosphere is also more heterogeneous, both

laterally and vertically, introducing additional constraints on the
boundary style.

As a result, continental collision styles vary massively, and

conflicting ideas about geodynamic processes can be inferred from

Useful Definitions:
Euler Poles: Euler poles describe instantaneous rates of rotation of
one plate or continental fragment with respect to another.
Ridge Push Force: or sliding plate force is a proposed mechanism for
plate motion in plate tectonics. Because mid-ocean ridges lie at a
higher elevation than the rest of the ocean floor, gravity causes the
ridge to push on the lithosphere that lies farther from the ridge.
Rayleigh number: for a fluid is a dimensionless number associated
with buoyancy driven flow (also known as free convection or natural
convection). When the Rayleigh number is below the critical value for
that fluid, heat transfer is primarily in the form of conduction; when it
exceeds the critical value, heat transfer is primarily in the form
of convection.
Serpentinization: Serpentinization is a geological low-temperature
metamorphic process involving heat and water in which low-silica
mafic and ultramafic rocks are oxidized (anaerobic oxidation of Fe2+ by
the protons of water leading to the formation of H2) and hydrolyzed
with water into serpentinite. The density changes from 3.3 to 2.7
g/cm3 with a concurrent volume increase on the order of 30-40%. The
reaction is highly exothermic and rock temperatures can be raised by
about 260 C (500 F),[1] providing an energy source for formation of
non-volcanic hydrothermal vents.
Young's Model:
also known as the tensile modulus or elastic modulus, is a
measure of the stiffness of an elastic material and is a quantity used to
characterize materials. It is defined as the ratio of the stress along
an axis over the strain along that axis in the range of stress in
which Hooke's law holds.
Plastic deformation:
This type of deformation is irreversible. However, an object in the
plastic deformation range will first have undergone elastic
deformation, which is reversible, so the object will return part way to
its original shape. Soft thermoplastics have a rather large plastic
deformation range as do ductile metals such as copper, silver,
and gold. Steel does, too, but not cast iron. Hard thermosetting
plastics, rubber, crystals, and ceramics have minimal plastic
deformation ranges. One material with a large plastic deformation
range is wet chewing gum, which can be stretched dozens of times its
original length.
Under tensile stress plastic deformation is characterized by a strain
hardening region and a necking region and finally, fracture (also called
rupture). During strain hardening the material becomes stronger

through the movement of atomic dislocations. The necking phase is

indicated by a reduction in cross-sectional area of the specimen.
Necking begins after the ultimate strength is reached. During necking,
the material can no longer withstand the maximum stress and the
strain in the specimen rapidly increases. Plastic deformation ends with
the fracture of the material.
Deviatoric (tectonic) stresses:
In geology the deviatoric stress is a measure of the stress acting to
deform a rock. Stress is the force per unit area on a surface within a
material. If the stress in every direction is equal the stress is
hydrostatic and the stress in any direction is equal to the mean stress.
A deviatoric stress is not equal in every direction and represents a
deviation from the mean. The largest deviation from the mean is the
principle stress and has both direction and magnitude. Fold axes and
foliations in regional metamorphic rocks are oriented broadly
perpendicular to the principle stress direction.
Deviatoric stress has a particularly important application in the
derivation of stress orientation and magnitude from fault slip data
Bouguer Anomaly: is a gravity anomaly, corrected for the height at
which it is measured and the attraction of terrain. The height
correction alone gives a free-air gravity anomaly.
Free air anomaly: is the measured gravity anomaly after a free-air
correction is applied to correct for the elevation at which a
measurement is made. The free-air correction does so by adjusting
these measurements of gravity to what would have been measured at
sea level
Backstripping: is a geophysical analysis technique used
on sedimentary rock sequences - the technique is used to
quantitatively estimate the depth that the basement would be in the
absence of sediment and water loading. This depth provides a
measure of the unknown tectonic driving forces that are responsible
for basin formation (otherwise know as tectonic subsidence or uplift).
By comparing backstripped curves to theoretical curves for basin
subsidence and uplift it is possible to deduce information on the basin
forming mechanisms.
Airy Isostacy: calculated by assuming the pressure at the top of the
fluid asthenosphere is the same beneath the highland as it is beneath
the lowland.
Pratt Isostacy: Lateral density variations can make topography too
(Pratt isostasy). The topography here is the same as before but its
cause is a reduction in lithospheric mantle density resulting from
heating by a plume in the asthenosphere.

Intraplate strain: