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Estimates of fault strength from the Variscan foreland of the northern UK

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Woodcock, N 


We provide new insights into the long-standing debate regarding fault strength, by studying structures active in the late Carboniferous in the foreland of the Variscan Mountain range in the northern UK. We describe a method to estimate the seismogenic thickness for ancient deformation zones, at the time they were active, based upon the geometry of fault-bounded extensional basins. We then perform calculations to estimate the forces exerted between mountain ranges and their adjacent lowlands in the presence of thermal and compositional effects on the density. We combine these methods to calculate an upper bound on the stresses that could be supported by faults in the Variscan foreland before they began to slip. We find the faults had a low effective coefficient of friction (i.e. 0.02–0.24), and that the reactivated pre-existing faults were at least 30% weaker than unfaulted rock. These results show structural inheritance to be important, and suggest that the faults had a low intrinsic coefficient of friction, high pore-fluid pressures, or both.



fault strength, Variscan, seismogenic thickness

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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Elsevier BV
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J016322/1)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/J019895/1)
This work forms part of the NERC- and ESRC-funded project 'Earthquakes without Frontiers', and was partially supported by the NERC grant 'Looking Inside the Continents from Space'.