The Structural and Geomorphic Development of Active Collisional Orogens, from Single Earthquake to Million Year Timescales, Timor Leste and New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The structure and geomorphology of active orogens evolves on time scales ranging from a single earthquake to millions of years of tectonic deformation. Analysis of crustal deformation using new and established remote sensing techniques, and integration of these data with field mapping, geochronology and the sedimentary record, create new opportunities to understand orogenic evolution over these timescales. Timor Leste (East Timor) lies on the northern collisional boundary between continental crust from the Australian Plate and the Banda volcanic arc. GPS studies have indicated that the island of Timor is actively shortening. Field mapping and fault kinematic analysis of an emergent Pliocene marine sequence identifies gentle folding, overprinted by a predominance of NW-SE oriented dextral-normal faults and NE-SW oriented sinistral-normal faults that collectively bound large (5-20km2) bedrock massifs throughout the island. These fault systems intersect at non-Andersonian conjugate angles of approximately 120° and accommodate an estimated 20 km of orogen-parallel extension. Folding of Pliocene rocks in Timor may represent an early episode of contraction but the overall pattern of deformation is one of lateral crustal extrusion sub-parallel to the Banda Arc. Stratigraphic relationships suggest that extrusion began prior to 5.5 Ma, during and after initial uplift of the orogen. Sedimentological, geochemical and Nd isotope data indicate that the island of Timor was emergent and shedding terrigenous sediment into carbonate basins prior to 4.5 Ma. Synorogenic tectonic and sedimentary phases initiated almost synchronously across much of Timor Leste and <2 Myr before similar events in West Timor. An increase in plate coupling along this obliquely converging boundary, due to subduction of an outlying continental plateau at the Banda Trench, is proposed as a mechanism for uplift that accounts for orogen-parallel extension and early uplift of Timor Leste. Rapid bathymetric changes around Timor are likely to have played an important role in evolution of the Indonesian Seaway. The 2010 Mw 7.1 Darfield (Canterbury) earthquake in New Zealand was complex, involving multiple faults with strike-slip, reverse and normal displacements. Multi-temporal cadastral surveying and airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) surveys allowed surface deformation at the junction of three faults to be analyzed in this study in unprecedented detail. A nested, localized restraining stepover with contractional bulging was identified in an area with the overall fault structure of a releasing bend, highlighting the surface complexities that may develop in fault interaction zones during a single earthquake sequence. The earthquake also caused river avulsion and flooding in this area. Geomorphic investigations of these rivers prior to the earthquake identify plausible precursory patterns, including channel migration and narrowing. Comparison of the pre and post-earthquake geomorphology of the fault rupture also suggests that a subtle scarp or groove was present along much of the trace prior to the Darfield earthquake. Hydrogeology and well logs support a hypothesis of extended slip history and suggests that that the Selwyn River fan may be infilling a graben that has accumulated late Quaternary vertical slip of <30 m. Investigating fault behavior, geomorphic and sedimentary responses over a multitude of time-scales and at different study sites provides insights into fault interactions and orogenesis during single earthquakes and over millions of years of plate boundary deformation.