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Structural inheritance and border fault reactivation during active early-stage rifting along the Thyolo fault, Malawi

Wedmore, Luke N.J., Williams, Jack N., Biggs, Juliet, Fagereng, Åke, Mphepo, Felix, Dulanya, Zuze, Willoughby, James, Mdala, Hassan and Adams, Byron 2020. Structural inheritance and border fault reactivation during active early-stage rifting along the Thyolo fault, Malawi. Journal of Structural Geology 139 , 104097. 10.1016/j.jsg.2020.104097

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We present new insights on the geometry, initiation and growth of the Thyolo fault, an 85 km long active border fault in the southern Malawi Rift, from high-resolution topography, field and microstructural observations. The Thyolo fault is located towards the edge of the Proterozoic Unango Terrane, and is the border fault of the Lower Shire Graben, which has experienced four phases of extension since the Jurassic. Recent activity is demonstrated by an 18.6 ± 7.7 m high fault scarp, with two substantial reductions in scarp height along strike. However, the segment boundaries suggested by these displacement measurements do not coincide with changes in fault strike. Elsewhere, a ∼5 km long fault perpendicular scarp joins two overlapping sections, yet the scarp height in this linking section is similar to the bounding sections, and there is no evidence of significant pre-linkage strain accumulation. Microstructural analyses along the fault show a 15–45 m thick footwall damage zone with a 0.7 m thick core. We suggest that favourably-oriented, pre-existing shallow structures control changes in surface geometry and the narrow fault core, whereas exploitation of weak ductile zones at depth, possibly associated with the terrane boundary, control the displacement profile of the fault.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0191-8141
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 6 July 2020
Date of Acceptance: 26 May 2020
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2021 02:41

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