We examine the role of lithosphere folding in the large‐scale evolution of the continental lithosphere. Analysis of the record of recent vertical motions and the geometry of basin deflection for a number of sites in Europe and worldwide suggests that lithospheric folding is a primary response of the lithosphere to recently induced compressional stress fields. Despite the widespread opinion, folding can persist during long periods of time independently of the presence of many inhomogeneities such as crustal faults and inherited weakness zones. The characteristic wavelengths of folding are determined by the presence of young lithosphere in large parts of Europe and central Asia and by the geometries of the sediment bodies acting as a load on the lithosphere in basins. The proximity of these sites to the areas of active tectonic compression suggests that the technically induced horizontal stresses are responsible for the large‐scale warping of the lithosphere. Wavelengths and persistence of folding are controlled by many factors such as rheology, faulting, time after the end of the major tectonic compression, nonlinear effects, and initial geometry of the folded area. In particular, the persistence of periodical undulations in central Australia (700 Myr since onset of folding) or in the Paris basin (60 Myr) long after the end of the initial intensive tectonic compression requires a very strong rheology compatible with the effective elastic thickness values of about 100 km in the first case and 50–60 km in the second case.
Tectonics – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 1999
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