Numerical models of lithospheric deformation forming the Southern Alps of New Zealand

Abstract : Compression of the entire continental lithosphere is considered using two-dimensional numerical models, in order to study the influence of the lithospheric mantle on the geometry of continental collision in its initial stages. The models are based on the central section of New Zealand Southern Alps, where continental collision has occurred along the Alpine Fault since about 7 Ma. They incorporate brittle-elastic-ductile rheology, heat transfer, surface processes, and fault localisation. The models are compared to the surface relief, the GPS convergence velocity, the measured electrical conductivity, and the geometry of the crustal root imaged from seismic velocity measurements. The crustal deformation is characterized by localized uplift at the plate boundary (Alpine Fault) and by two secondary zones of faulting. One is located about 60 to 80 km east of the Alpine Fault, at the start of upper crust bending (or tilting), and the other is located about 100 to 130 km east of the Alpine Fault as a result from shear strain propagating to the surface through the ductile lower crust. The observed asymmetric shape of the crustal root is best reproduced for a mantle lithosphere strength of the order of 200 MPa, and an intermediate rate of strain-softening. A lower strength of the mantle lithosphere can produce symmetric thickening, but provides an amplitude of the crustal root too small when compared to observations. The observed 20 km offset between the maximum in surface relief and the crustal root was not satisfactorily reproduced. This offset is most likely due to the three dimensionality of oblique collision in New Zealand Southern Alps.
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Muriel Gerbault, Stuart Henrys, Fred Davey. Numerical models of lithospheric deformation forming the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 2003, 108 (B7), pp.ETG 5-1,5-18. ⟨10.1029/2001JB001716⟩. ⟨ird-00388241⟩

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