This study integrates field evidence with laboratory experiments to show the mechanical effects of a lithologically contrasting stratigraphic sequence on the development of frontal thrusts: Main Boundary Thrust (MBT) and Daling Thrust (DT) in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya (DSH). We carried out field investigations mainly along two river sections in the DSH: Tista-Kalijhora and Mahanadi, covering an orogen-parallel stretch of ~20 km. Our field observations suggest that the coal-shale dominated Gondwana sequence (sandwiched between the Daling Group in the north and Siwaliks in the south) has acted as a mechanically weak horizon to localize the MBT and DT. We simulated a similar mechanical setting in scaled model experiments to validate our field interpretation. In experiments, such a weak horizon at a shallow depth perturbs the sequential thrust progression, and causes a thrust to localize in the vicinity of the weak zone, splaying from the basal detachment. We correlate this weak-zone-controlled thrust with the DT, which accommodates a large shortening prior to activation of the weak zone as a new detachment with ongoing horizontal shortening. The entire shortening in the model is then transferred to this shallow detachment to produce a new sequence of thrust splays. Extrapolating this model result to the natural prototype, we show that the mechanically weak Gondwana Sequence has caused localization of the DT and MBT in the mountain front of DSH.
Tectonophysics – Elsevier
Published: Mar 15, 2018
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