Acoustic Velocity Structure of the Carboneras Fault Zone, SE Spain

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Rochelle Taylor


The Carboneras fault zone (CFZ, Almería Province, SE Spain) is a major NE-SW trending tectonic lineament that marks part of the diffuse plate boundary between Iberia and Africa. Developed within a basement terrain dominated by mica schist, the fault system comprises two main strands within a complex zone up to 1 km wide. Between these two strands is a braided network of left-lateral strike-slip, phyllosilicate-rich fault gouge bands, ranging between 1 and 20 m in thickness, passively exhumed from up to 3 km depth. The excellent exposure in a semi-arid environment, the wide range of rock types and fault structures represented and the practicality of carrying out in-situ geophysical studies makes this fault zone particularly well suited to verifying and interpreting the results of in-situ seismic investigations. Integration of elements of field study, laboratory analysis and modelling has aided interpretation of the internal structure of the fault zone. Ultrasonic measurements were made using standard equipment over confining and pore pressure ranges appropriate to the upper 10 km of the continental crust. Seismic velocities have also been approximated from modal analysis and mineral phase elastic properties and adjusted for the effects of porosity. In-situ seismic investigations recorded P-wave velocities 40-60% lower than those measured in the laboratory under corresponding pressures and at ambient temperatures for hard rock samples. Fault gouge velocities measured in the laboratory, however, are comparable to those measured in the field because, unlike the host rocks, fault gouges are only pervasively micro-fractured and lack the populations of long cracks (larger than the sample size) that cause slowing of the velocities measured in the field. By modelling the effect of fractures on seismic velocity (by superimposing upon the laboratory seismic data the effects of crack damage) the gap between field- and laboratory-scale seismic investigations has been bridged. Densities of macroscopic cracks were assessed by measuring outcrop lengths on planar rock exposures. Assuming crack length follows a power law relation to frequency, this fixes a portion of the power spectrum, which is then extrapolated to cover the likely full range of crack sizes. The equations of Budiansky and O'Connell (1976), linking crack density to elastic moduli, were used to calculate modified acoustic velocities, and the effects of the wide range of crack sizes were incorporated by breaking the distribution down into small sub-populations of limited range of crack density. Finally, the effect of overburden pressure causing progressively smaller cracks to close was incorporated to predict velocity versus depth of burial (i.e. pressure). Determination of rock physical properties from laboratory analysis and sections constructed from geological mapping provides a representation of velocity from selected parts of the Carboneras fault zone. First break tomography images show particularly well the location of steeply-inclined fault cores, and these correlate generally well with geological mapping and laboratory velocity measurements corrected for the effect of cracks. The decoration of the fault zone with intrusive igneous material is well correlated with the results of geological observations. Comparisons made between the field (seismic) inversion model and laboratory forward velocity model in El Saltador valley show the laboratory and field velocity measurements made within the fault zone can be reconciled by accounting for the effects of crack damage in field data.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2013

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