Differentiating simple and composite tectonic landscapes using numerical fault slip modeling with an example from the south central Alborz Mountains, Iran

by Angela Landgraf, Olaf Zielke, J Ramón Arrowsmith, Paolo Ballato, Manfred R. Strecker, Taylor F. Schildgen, Anke M. Friedrich, Sayyed-Hassan Tabatabaei
Year: 2013

Extra Information

Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. September 2013, Vol. 118, Issue 3, Pages 1792-1805.


[1] The tectonically driven growth of mountains reflects the characteristics of the underlying fault systems and the applied tectonic forces. Over time, fault networks might be relatively static, but stress conditions could change and result in variations in fault slip orientation. Such a tectonic landscape would transition from a “simple” to a “composite” state: the topography of simple landscapes is correlated with a single set of tectonic boundary conditions, while composite landscapes contain inherited topography due to earlier deformation under different boundary conditions. We use fault interaction modeling to compare vertical displacement fields with topographic metrics to differentiate the two types of landscapes. By successively rotating the axis of maximum horizontal stress, we produce a suite of vertical displacement fields for comparison with real landscapes. We apply this model to a transpressional duplex in the south central Alborz Mountains of Iran, where NW oriented compression was superseded by neotectonic NE compression. The consistency between the modeled displacement field and real landforms indicates that the duplex topography is mostly compatible with the modern boundary conditions, but might include a small remnant from the earlier deformation phase. Our approach is applicable for various tectonic settings and represents an approach to identify the changing boundary conditions that produce composite landscapes. It may be particularly useful for identifying changes that occurred in regions where river profiles may no longer record a signal of the change or where the spatial pattern of uplift is complex.