Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Structural evolution of backthrusting in the Mentawai Fault Zone, offshore Sumatran forearc

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Abstract

[1] We present the interpretation of newly acquired high-quality industry-standard deep seismic reflection and swath bathymetry data to provide insight into the structural style and evolution of the Mentawai Fault Zone (MFZ). The MFZ lies along the boundary between the accretionary wedge and the proposed continental backstop. This zone exhibits arcuate ridges on the seafloor, convex toward the east. Beneath these ridges the structures developed as landward-vergent imbricated backthrusts in the inner part of the accretionary wedge and higher-angle backthrusts that deformed the forearc basin sediments. In the forearc high, anticlines were developed due to the seaward-vergent forearc high thrusts originating in the accretionary wedge. The imbricated backthrusts may have initiated during the Early-Middle Miocene contemporaneously with the slide and back-rotation of forearc high thrusts. In the Late Miocene, the higher-angle backthrusts were initiated. Continuous contraction induced the frontal higher-angle backthrusts and formed a fold-thrust belt toward the east during the Pliocene. The folds and thrusts were disturbed by diapirs and mud volcanoes. Backthrusting and fold-thrust belts developed in the MFZ may explain the compressional features observed at the boundary between the accretionary wedge and continental backstop along the southern Sumatra margin. The backthrusts along the MFZ are waning in activity and hence the risk of a large earthquake and associated tsunami at the present time should be small.

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