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Subsurface fault geometries have a systematic influence on folds formed above those faults. We use the extraordinarily well-exposed fold geometries of the Laramide-age Stillwell anticline in west Texas (USA) to develop a strain-predictive model of fault-propagation fold formation. The anticline is a 10-km long, NW-trending, NE-vergent, asymmetric fold system with an axis that displays a map-view left-stepping, en echelon pattern. We integrated field observations, geologic and structural data, cross-sections, and 2D kinematic modeling to establish an unusual 3D two-stage model of contractional fold formation, including: 1) reverse reactivation of a pre-existing, NW-striking, SW-dipping, left-stepping, en echelon normal fault system in Paleozoic basement rocks to generate monoclinal flexures in overlying layered Cretaceous carbonate rocks; and 2) the formation of a subsequent flat-ramp fault system that propagated horizontally along a mechanically-weak, clay-rich Cretaceous unit before ramping up at the hinge of the pre-existing monocline system. Strain is focused within the forelimb of the system, in front of the propagating fault tip, and is accommodated by a combination of interlayer slip, flat-ramp faulting, and fracturing proximal to planes of slip. This strain predictive model can be applied to similar, less-well-exposed contractional systems worldwide and provides a new, unusual example of Laramide-age contractional deformation.




Elsevier Ltd.

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Journal of Structural Geology