Numerical models of the inversion of sedimentary basins

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© Susanne Buiter

Basin inversion

basin inversion Basin inversion is the process of shortening an extensional sedimentary basin whereby the basin fill is uplifted and partially extruded, and pre-existing faults are re-used [in the sense of Cooper et al., Geological Society Special Publication 44, 1989]. Mild to moderate basin inversion has among others been identified on seismic profiles in the North Sea and the Alpine foreland. It is characterised by uplift of the basin fill, folding of syn- and post-rift sediments and (partial) reactivation of normal faults. Examples of strong or complete inversion can be found in the Alps and Pyrenees. Folding, faulting, fault rotation, fault reactivation and extrusion of the basin fill play a role in the generation of sometimes complex deformational structures.

The pictures below give a snapshot of my basin inversion projects over the years 2002-2009.

Inversion of half-graben basins

inversion of half-graben basins

The two-dimensional visco-plastic numerical models use Sopale, a finite-element code developed by the Geodynamics Group at Dalhousie University.

  • Susanne J.H. Buiter and O. Adrian Pfiffner, 2003, Numerical models of the inversion of half-graben basins, Tectonics 22 (5), 10.1029/2002TC001417


Comparison of analogue and numerical models of inversion of a symmetric basin

analogue-numerical basin inversion

We use both analogue and numerical experiments to study the inversion by shortening of a symmetric sedimentary basin. The experiments start with a pre-existing basin filled in part with weak layers simulating weak sediments.

  • Panien, M., S.J.H. Buiter, G. Schreurs and O.A. Pfiffner, 2006, Inversion of a symmetric basin: insights from a comparison between analogue and numerical experiments, in: Analogue and Numerical Modelling of Crustal-Scale Processes, Buiter, S.J.H. and Schreurs, G. (eds), Geological Society, London, Special Publication 253, 253-270


Formation of extensional sedimentary basins and their subsequent inversion

basin inversion The figure shows an (unpublished) example of the formation of a sedimentary basin by extension and its inversion through contraction. The model is 400 km wide by 35 km high, and the centre 200 km of the modelling domain are shown. Crust is pink, sediments are yellow. a) 50 km of extension; b) 60 km of extension, the different shades of yellow indicate different times of deposition of sediments; c) post-rift sediments; d) 10 km contraction, note the syn-inversion sediments in red. The frictional strength of all model materials softens with increasing strain. The grid in the figure is used to track material properties and visualises deformation; it is not the calculation grid (which is more dense).

The example below is from a model that features basin formation and basin inversion in models that include the lithosphere and upper mantle.

basin inversion basin inversion