Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Solid Earth, 9, 1421–1436, 2018
Solid Earth, 9, 1421–1436, 2018

Research article 10 Dec 2018

Research article | 10 Dec 2018

The influence of detachment strength on the evolving deformational energy budget of physical accretionary prisms

Jessica McBeck1,a, Michele Cooke1, Pauline Souloumiac2, Bertrand Maillot2, and Baptiste Mary2 Jessica McBeck et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst MA, USA
  • 2Département Géosciences et Environnement, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Cergy-Pontoise, France
  • anow at: Physics of Geological Processes, The Njord Centre, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Tracking the evolution of the deformational energy budget within accretionary systems provides insight into the driving mechanisms that control fault development. To quantify the impact of these mechanisms on overall system efficiency, we estimate energy budget components as the first thrust fault pair develops in dry-sand accretion experiments. We track energy budget components in experiments that include and exclude a basal layer of glass beads in order to investigate the influence of detachment strength on work partitioning. We use the measurements of normal force exerted on the backwall to estimate external work, and measurements of strain observed on the sides of the sand packs to estimate the internal work, frictional work and work against gravity done within increments of each experiment. Thrust fault development reduces the incremental external work and incremental internal work, and increases the incremental frictional work and incremental gravitational work. The faults that develop within higher-friction detachment experiments produce greater frictional work than the faults in experiments with glass bead detachments because the slip distribution along the detachments remains the same, while the effective friction coefficient of the detachment differs between the experiments. The imbalance of the cumulative work budget suggests that additional deformational processes that are not fully captured in our measurements of the energy budget, such as acoustic energy, consume work within the deforming wedge.

Short summary
In order to assess the influence of deformational processes within accretionary prisms, we track the evolution of the energy budget. We track the consumption of energy stored in internal deformation of the host rock, energy expended in frictional slip, energy used in uplift against gravity and total energy input. We find that the energy used in internal deformation is < 1% of the total and that the energy expended in frictional slip is the largest portion of the budget.