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Structural Geology
Definition and concept
Primary Structures
Ranjan Kumar Dahal, PhD

Course: Introduction
 Introduction. Concept, approach, and
scope of structural geology. Primary and
secondary structures. Primary
sedimentary structures and their
significance in structural geology.
Structure of igneous rocks.


Structural geology
 As a branch of geology, it deals with ‘the study of
structures found in rocks’.
 Structural geology is an arrangement of rocks and plays an
important role in geo-engineering in the selection of
suitable sites for all types of projects such as dams,
tunnels, multistoried buildings, etc.
 Structural geology is concerned with deformation of the
Earth's crust


Concept of Structural Geology

Topic Definition Application to
structural geology
Descriptive The representation of the spatial Used to describe the
geometry relationships of points lines and geometry of deformed or
planes by means of Projections undeformed bodies
Kinematics The study of the position of bodies Used to describe how a
through time without regard to the body changes shape
causative forces and/or position through
Mechanics The study of forces and their Used to understand and
effects (e.g., how bodies deform in predict how bodies
response to forces) deform

 Descriptions of an inclined plane: strike

and dip

 Strike is the direction of the line produced by the

intersection of the inclined plane with the horizontal
plane. It is expressed as the angle of the line from the

 Dip is the angle between the inclined plane and the

horizontal plane.

 Strike and dip directions are always mutually



 Strike and dip of a rock layer.

What skills will be practiced?

- Scientific method
- 3-D Visualization and presentation
- Mapping
- Quantitative
- Integrating multiple disciplines


What are structures?

Two main types:
(1) Primary structures: Develop during formation of a rock body; e.g.,
cross-bedding, ripple marks, mudcracks, pillows (in basalt)

(2) Secondary structures: Form in rocks as a result of deformation- the

structures this class are focused on!

Sedimentary Structures
 Contacts - boundaries between rock
 Primary structures - develop during
formation of rock.
 In sedimentary rocks, may provide
information on stratigraphic sequence:
 relativepositions of older and younger
rocks facing)
 transport direction during deposition
examples: bedding, cross-beds, ripple marks,
graded beds, sole marks, mud cracks 10


Sedimentary structures

 Sedimentary structures occur at very different

scales, from less than a mm (thin section) to
100s–1000s of meters (large outcrops); most
attention is traditionally focused on the bedform-
• Microforms (e.g., ripples)
• Mesoforms (e.g., dunes)
• Macroforms (e.g., bars)





Sedimentary structures

 Laminae and beds are the basic sedimentary

units that produce stratification; the transition
between the two is arbitrarily set at 10 mm
 Normal grading is an upward decreasing grain
size within a single lamina or bed (associated
with a decrease in flow velocity), as opposed to
reverse grading
 Fining-upward successions and
coarsening-upward successions are the
products of vertically stacked individual beds






Sedimentary structures
Cross stratification
 Cross lamination (small-scale cross stratification) is
produced by ripples
 Cross bedding (large-scale cross stratification) is
produced by dunes
 Cross-stratified deposits can only be preserved when a
bedform is not entirely eroded by the subsequent bedform
(i.e., sediment input > sediment output)
 Straight-crested bedforms lead to planar cross
stratification; sinuous or linguoid bedforms produce
trough cross stratification



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Sedimentary structures

Cross stratification

 The angle of climb of cross-stratified deposits increases

with deposition rate, resulting in ‘climbing ripple cross
 Antidunes form cross strata that dip upstream, but these
are not commonly preserved

 A single unit of cross-stratified material is known as a

set; a succession of sets forms a co-set


Sedimentary structures

Planar stratification

 Planar lamination (or planar bedding) is formed

under both lower-stage and upper-stage flow
 Planar stratification can easily be confused with
planar cross stratification, depending on the
orientation of a section (strike sections!)


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Sedimentary structures
 Cross stratification produced by wave ripples can be
distinguished from current ripples by their symmetry and
by laminae dipping in two directions
 Hummocky cross stratification (HCS) forms during
storm events with combined wave and current activity in
shallow seas (below the fair-weather wave base), and is
the result of aggradation of mounds and swales

 Heterolithic stratification is characterized by

alternating sand and mud laminae or beds
• Flaser bedding is dominated by sand with isolated, thin mud
• Lenticular bedding is mud-dominated with isolated ripples



Primary structures
 Primary structures are original features
of sedimentary or igneous rocks
resulting from deposition or
 It gives ultimate goal to understand the
total history of a deformed rock and not
just its deformational history
 It also help to understand that the
processes of deposition and
deformation are not necessarily
isolated in time 39

 The basic structure in all environments is the sedimentary bed
(stratum), which is a distinct layer of sediment or rock that may
differ in a variety of ways from overlying and underlying layers.
 Genetically, the base of a bed represents an abrupt change in
depositional conditions or sediment supply; the bed
represents more or less uniform conditions; and the top
represents another abrupt change.
 The changes may include a period of erosion or a pause in
 When erosion surfaces between beds of closely similar
materials are so faint that the composite unit looks like a single
bed, the beds are said to be amalgamated.
 Beds are studied and described according to
(1) how they differ from adjoining beds (by grain size, fabric,
composition, or primary color);
(2) their shape
(3) their thickness (actual thickness is most useful);
(4) their lateral extent, noting the degree to which it can be determined;
(5) their internal structures; and
(6) the nature of their contacts with adjacent beds.



1. Structures on the upper bedding surface

a. Undulatory bedforms produced by unidirectional water
 Current ripples are the smallest subaqueous forms commonly
developed on silt to medium sand beds. They do not occur in sand
coarser than 0.6 mm.
 Megaripples (also known as dunes) are dynamically different
from ripples. Although similar in shape, they are separated by a
distinct difference in size. Megaripple size increases with greater
water depth, for depths of a few meters.
 The term sand wave is used by some geologists to describe bed
forms that are usually larger than megaripples
 Antidunes are rather symmetrical in vertical section, with broadly
rounded crests and troughs. The prefix “anti-” refers to the
tendency of antidunes to migrate up-current. They develop in very
fast shallow currents and are in phase with water-surface waves,
Antidunes have a very low preservation potential because, as flow
velocity decreases, the bedform is rapidly transformed to a plane
bed by the still energetic flow .

Two-dimensional (asymmetrical) current ripples and associated

tabular cross bedding. Flow is from left to right

Three-dimensional (asymmetrical) current ripples and associated

trough bedding. Linguoid ripples on left side and a single sinuous
ripple on the right. Flow is from left to right.




b. Plane beds produced by unidirectional

water currents
 Under certain flow conditions, the sand-bed
surface is nearly flat and horizontal. This bed
configuration, called a plane bed



Different bed forms as per velocity and

sediment size
The three main factors that control the bedforms produced by unidirectional
water currents are: (1) mean flow velocity, (2) grain size. and (3) water depth. A
sequence of bedforms results from a regular increase in velocity


c. Undulatory bedforms produced by

wave action
 In nearshore marine and lacustrine
environments, bedforms are strongly influenced
by the oscillatory motion of wind-generated
waves. The back-and-forth motion of the water
near the bed produces symmetric ripples with
peaked or somewhat rounded crests. Crestlines
are relatively straight and bifurcation is common
 Shoaling waves or waves combined with
currents moving in the same direction produce
asymmetric ripples, called wave-current ripples
 Interaction between two wave-sets or between
waves and currents may generate complex
interference ripple patterns


Direction of

Types of Ripples

Direction of

Ripple symmetry Index RSI = Ls/LL

Ripple Index (RI) = L/H




Ripple marks
• Symmetric ripples indicate
bi-modal current

•Concave = up

• Asymmetric ripples indicate

unidirectional current


Ripple Marks
 Ridges and valleys on the surface of a bed, formed due to
current flow. Cross stratification with wave amplitude < 6“

(1) Oscillation or Symmetric Ripple Marks

 Oscillation wave produced ripples (current moving in two
opposite directions)
 Crests are pointed and troughs are curved

 Symmetrical concave up small scale (amplitude < 6") cross

 Good facing indicator

(2) Current or Asymmetric Ripple Marks

 Asymmetric cross stratification produced by current
moving in one direction; i.e., uniformly flowing current
 Good current direction indicator



Cross Ripples 54



Ripples and Sand Dunes

 A bedform is a morphological
feature formed by the interaction
between a flow and sediment on a
 Ripples in sand in a flowing stream
and sand dunes in deserts are both
examples of bedforms.
 Ripples result from flow in water.
 Sand dunes are formed due to
 The patterns of ripples and dunes
are products of the action of the flow.
 The formation of bedforms creates
distinctive layering and structures
within the sediment that can be
preserved in strata.
 Recognition of sedimentary
structures generated by bedforms
provides information about the
strength of the current, the flow
depth and the direction of sediment

Current Ripples
 Ripple marks are small waves of sand that
develop on the surface of a sediment layer by the
action of moving water.

 The ridges form at right angles to the direction of


 If the ripple marks were formed by water moving

in essentially one direction, their form will be

 These current ripple markswill have steeper sides

in the downcurrent direction and more gradual
slopes on the upcurrent side.

 Ripple marks produced by a stream flowing

across a sandy channel is an example of current

 When viewed from above current ripples show a

variety of forms .

 They may have relatively continuous straight to

sinuous crests (straight ripples or sinuous
ripples) or form a pattern of unconnected arcuate
forms called linguoid ripples.


Wave Ripples
 Other ripple marks have a symmetrical

 These features, called oscillation ripple

marks, result from the back-and-forth
movement of surface waves in a shallow
near shore environment.

 The oscillatory motion of the top surface of

a water body produced by waves
generates a circular pathway for water
molecules in the top layer .

 In shallow water, the base of the water

body interacts with the waves.

 Friction causes the circular motion at the

surface to become transformed into an
elliptical pathway, which is flattened at the
base into a horizontal oscillation.

 This horizontal oscillation may generate

wave ripples in sediment.

Ripple marks


Distinguishing wave and current

 ripples
Distinguishing between wave and current ripples can be
critical to the interpretation of palaeo-environments.

 Wave ripples are formed only in relatively shallow water in the

absence of strong currents, whereas current ripples may form
as a result of water flow in any depth in any subaqueous

 These distinctions allow deposits from a shallow lake or

lagoon to be distinguished from offshore or deep marine
environments, for example.

 The two different ripple types can be distinguished in the field

on the basis of their shapes and geometries.

 In plan view wave ripples have long, straight to sinuous crests

which may bifurcate (divide) whereas

 Current ripples are commonly very sinuous and broken up into

short, curved crests.

 When viewed from the side wave ripples are symmetrical with
cross-laminae dipping in both directions either side of the

 In contrast, current ripples are asymmetrical with cross-

laminae dipping only in one direction,

d. Undulatory bedforms produced by wind

 Wind blowing over dry sand produces a variety of bedforms. This occurs mainly
in deserts, coastal areas, and glacial outwash plains.
 The smaller bedforms called wind-sand ripples, are composed of very fine to
medium sand. Heights range upward to 5 cm and wavelengths to several
 They have ripple index values mostly in the range of 15 to 40, which is higher
than for wave ripples. Ripple symmetry index values generally range between
1.5 and 4.0, lower than for most current ripples.
 Use of these two indices thus provides a reasonable basis for distinguishing
wind-sand ripples from those formed in water



e. Mudcracks
 Mudcracks (also called desiccation or shrinkage cracks)
form in fine-grain Sediment as shrinkage occurs during
 In plan view they are described as orthogonal or non-
orthogonal, depending on the angle of Intersection.
Orthogonal cracks are usually normal to one another, and
thus bound four-sided polygons.
 Complete orthogonal mudcracks are the commonest type,
occurring In a great variety of marine and non-marine







Mud cracks

Desiccation of
muddy sediments

• Mud cracks

5 cm 66



 Polygons are
generally curved
concave upward,
although flat or
examples are known.
Erosion of thick
polygons produces Top
mud clasts. Thin mud
layers become
strongly curved upon Bottom

drying, to produce
mud curls


f. Raindrop imprints
 Shallow pits, with slightly raised rims, are attributed
to raindrops or hailstones falling on damp mud.
 Stranded bubbles produce a similar structure, but
they are less regularly distributed on the sediment
surface and do not overlap




Limited to terrestrial sediments


g. Organic structures
• Habitation burrows
Bioturbation • Feeding burrows
• Movement




• Limited to terrestrial sediments


Flame structures

• Less dense material intrudes into material above

• Caused by rapid loading of turbidite sands 74


Pillow lava

Upper curved surface

“V “ notch 75




• Sharks Bay, Australia

• Cyanobacteria grow upward toward the surface 77



1. On surface structres:
a. Undulatory bedforms produced by
unidirectional water currents
b. Plane beds produced by unidirectional
water currents
c. Undulatory bedforms produced by wave
d. Undulatory bedforms produced by wind
e. Mudcracks
f. Raindrop imprints
g. Organic structures


Secondary Structures
Joints: fractures with very little
or no displacement

Devil’s Postpile, Sierra Nevada, CA

Veins: fractures filled with minerals


Secondary Structures cont.

Faults: fractures that have accommodated

Folds: systematically curved layers

Cleavage: closely spaced subparallel

surfaces that impart a splitting property

Foliation: very closely spaced

subparallel planar features


Lineations: elongate linear features

Shear zones: “faults with widths”



Goals of Structural Analysis

 Geometry: mapping, measurements

 Kinematics: movements related to deformation

– Translation: change in position
– Rotation: change in orientation
– Distortion: change in shape
– Dilation: change in volume

Dynamics/Mechanics: relating deformation to


What is it?


What is it?? (interpretation)

faults joints

Marker bed

drag folds


Intro. Geometry: Structural measurements

Tools: compass and protractor
 Planar structures
 Strike: compass direction of trace of horizontal line on a plane;
bearing (quadrant, E or W of north) or azimuth (degrees
clockwise from N)
 Dip: inclination of plane from horizontal, perpendicular to


Linear structures
 Trend: direction of a vertical plane that
contains the linear feature in the direction of

 Plunge: angle between line and horizontal

Important terminology/concepts
- Structural geology- what is it and why is it important?
- Primary structures vs. Secondary structures
- Joints
- Veins
- Faults
- Folds
- Cleavage
- Foliation
- Shear zones
- Lineations
- Structural analysis
- Planar features: strike and dip
- Linear features: trend and plunge


Next class
 Kinematic Analysis

 Homework:
1. Differentiate Primary and Secondary
Structures. Classify primary structures and
describe its uses.
2. Write notes on Structures in Igneous rock.

 Homework Submission date Next week

Monday 5 PM, by email
and to Durga Khatiwada.

1st Lecture