Thrust tectonics are dealt with on the basis of primarily experiments focusing on the dynamics of a developing thrust belt and on understanding and predicting normal-sequence and out-of-sequence thrusting. Field examples are presented in addition to the examples of sandbox-model experiments. The results have improved the insight into thrust-belt-forming mechanisms; the validity of the conclusions is supported by natural examples.
The experimental program was aimed at examining the effect of changes in a selection of key parameters in thrust tectonics on the geometry and the successive phases in the development of thrust sheets. Sandbox experiments were used to analyse the effects of basal friction, detachment lithology, basement relief and syntectonic sedimentation. Multilayer experiments were performed to simulate the effects of ductile detachment lithologies.
It was found that a thrust belt’s cross-sectional geometry is formed in a dynamic process during which the wedge may develop from subcritical through critical to supercritical and back to critical again. The process is illustrated with sandbox experiments, analysed by time-lapse computed tomography scans and in-situ stress measurements. On the basis of the sandbox-model results and the natural examples, we conclude that a critical examination of the boundary conditions of a fold-and-thrust belt and of changes in these conditions during the deformation process enables predictions about the geometry and kinematics of the thrust belt.