Displacement fields and finite strains in a sandbox model simulating a fold-thrust-belt

Faramarz Nilforoushan, Hemin A. Koyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


A sandbox model consisting of two adjacent mechanically different decollements (frictional and viscous) loosely simulated the southeastern part of the Zagros fold-thrust-belt. Digital images of the model surface are used to coordinate passive markers on the surface and quantify displacement fields and estimate 2-D finite strains. These analyses show that, mapped in a fixed coordinate system, the deformation front propagates at different rates above the two decollements. Strain analysis of the model surface at different stages of deformation also shows that cumulative strain is more heterogeneous above the viscous decollement where strain domains are separated by fault zones. Maps of displacement fields, finite strain ellipses and dilatation also differ in character above the two decollements. Displacements above a viscous decollement decrease gradually towards the foreland, whereas they decrease sharply in front of the frontal thrust above the frictional decollement. Our analyses also show that the estimated finite strain depends not only on the density of the marker points chosen for the analysis, but also their initial distribution relative to the structures. This comparison shows that marker density limits measuring the actual strains in a heterogeneously deforming fold-thrust-belt and marker density and distribution have a strong impact on the strain analysed in nature. The similarity of our model with nature is examined with recent GPS study in the Zagros fold-thrust-belt (SW Iran) and shows, similar to the model results, that a weak salt decollement causes divergent movement in the sedimentary cover in SE Zagros.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1341-1355
Number of pages15
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Analogue modelling
  • Decollement
  • Fold-thrust-belt
  • Strain
  • Zagros


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