Fold-related brittle structures and associated strain in a limestone bed of the Carmel Formation, San Rafael Swell, Utah
The San Rafael Swell (SRS) is a basement-cored Laramide uplift located in central-eastern Utah. The SRS is bounded on the east by a 70 km long monocline, a fault-propagation fold, with excellent exposure of sedimentary strata including the Carmel Formation. This monocline is an ideal natural laboratory for studying brittle deformation associated with folding. Qualitative and quantitative observations for brittle structures in a limestone bed near the base of the Carmel Fm. were made in a wide range of bedding dip, curvature, and fold domains. Kinematic data was collected for 2942 structures (1865 veins, 746 stylolites, 314 faults) in 30 locations in order to calculate principal directions of strain. Additionally, data was collected along 71 scanlines at 19 of those locations in order to estimate structure intensities and strain magnitudes.
Dekameter-displacement thrust faults, acting as ramps between inferred layer-parallel faults, accommodate orders of magnitude more strain than all other observed brittle structures. These faults are only found in segments of the monocline where bedding dip is high, but curvature is low, which provides strong evidence that limb rotation more strongly controls strain magnitudes than layer bending in the SRS.
The trishear model effectively predicts SRS monocline geometry, specifically observed limb thickening, broad, curved hinges, and progressively rotating limb. This is likely due to the dominance of thick, homogeneous rock packages, such as the Navajo Sandstone, in the SRS monocline. In contrast, strain localization within the Carmel Fm. is poorly predicted by trishear: there is strong evidence of flexural slip, and folding induced structure orientations and calculated principal strain directions remain consistent relative to bedding. These strain directions are inconsistent with trishear forward models produced by workers such as Zuluaga et al. (2014) that do not stay consistent relative to bedding. These divergences are likely due to the fact that trishear is a kinematic model that assumes rock homogeneity, while the Carmel Fm. is stratigraphically and mechanically heterogeneous. Because this heterogeneity appears to have a strong effect on strain localization, kink band models likely better estimate strain localization in the Carmel limestone bed as well as other layers in folded heterogeneous strata.
The monocline’s interpreted transition from layer-parallel shortening to extension at the steepest locations in the monocline, and thus at most advanced stage of folding, enabled estimation of the dip of the basement fault beneath the SRS as ~30°. This shallow dip contrasts with the steep dip (~60°) assumed for the SRS by Zuluaga et al. (2014) and observed in the Kaibab uplift (Huntoon and Sears, 1975; Tindall, 2000), but is consistent with a recent estimation of 20-40° for the SRS by Davis and Bump (2009) using trishear modeling.