Towards the prediction of the emergence and evolution of tectonic faults over geological time

ARTICLE IN GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS. Revolution in digital geology modeling

Evolution of tectonic faults

In the course of geological time, the tectonic plates undergo significant and permanent deformations associated with the formation of mountain ranges or continental rifts which are marked in the landscape by the creation of topography along large faults of crustal to lithospheric scales.

Our understanding of tectonic phenomena is based on our ability to predict and model these deformations. Despite numerous efforts in the development of numerical models of tectonic deformation, modelling the formation and evolution of these faults over geological time poses serious problems. In fact, in the formulation used by the tectonic models, the geometry of the faults and their number depend on the resolution of the grid on which the calculation is made.

A team of geoscientists from Géosciences Rennes - Thibault Duretz and Philippe Yamato - and Sorbonne University collaborated with a researcher from the University of Sheffield specializing in plasticity in the field of engineering to develop a new formulation that allows to accurately satisfy the balance of forces and obtain structures tectonic independent of resolution. These results, published in Geophysical Research Letters in February 2020, represent an important step towards the development of robust tectonic models that can predict the emergence and evolution of faults over geological time.

Duretz, T., de Borst, R., Yamato, P., & Le Pourhiet, L.. (2020). Towards robust and predictive geodynamic modelling: the way forward in frictional plasticity. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2019GL086027.