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Deep structure, recent deformation and analog modeling of the Gulf of Cadiz accretionary wedge: Implications for the 1755 Lisbon earthquake

Abstract : The Gulf of Cadiz spans the plate boundary between Africa and Eurasia west of the Betic–Rif mountain belt. A narrow east dipping subduction zone descends beneath the Gulf of Cadiz and the straits of Gibraltar. The deep crustal structure of the Gulf and the adjacent SW Iberian and Moroccan margins is constrained by numerous multi-channel seismic reflection and wide-angle seismic surveys. A compilation of these existing studies is presented in the form of depth to basement, sediment thickness, depth to Moho and crustal thickness maps. These structural maps image an E–W trending trough, with thin (< 10 km) crust beneath the Gulf of Cadiz. This trough is filled by an eastward thickening wedge of sediments, reaching a thickness of 10–15 km in the eastern Gulf. These sediments are tectonically deformed, primarily along a series of westward-vergent thrust faults and represent a 200–250 km wide accretionary wedge. The northern and especially the southern limits of the accretionary wedge are marked by sharp morphological lineaments showing evidence of recent deformation. These tectonic limits are situated in an internal position with respect to the Miocene deformation front (external Betic and Rif allocthons), which has been abandoned. At the western boundary of the accretionary wedge, near the adjacent Seine and Horseshoe abyssal plains, an E–W trending basement high (Coral Patch Ridge) can be seen indenting the deformation front in an asymmetric manner. Analog modeling is performed using granular materials accreted against a semicircular backstop (representing the basement of the Rif and Betic mountain belts). The modeling initially produces a symmetric, arcuate accretionary wedge. The ensuing collision of an oblique rigid indenter retards accretion on one side, resulting in an embayment and a locally steeper deformation front. The deformation pattern observed in morphology and high-resolution seismic profiles suggests the accretionary wedge and underlying subduction system is still active. The implications of active subduction for the source region of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the regional seismic hazard assessment are discussed.
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Marc-André Gutscher, Stephane Dominguez, Graham K. Westbrook, Pascal Leroy. Deep structure, recent deformation and analog modeling of the Gulf of Cadiz accretionary wedge: Implications for the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2009, 475 (1), pp.85-97. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2008.11.031⟩. ⟨hal-00424922⟩

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