Thrust fault-related folding, editors: McClay, J. H. Shaw, and J. Suppe,
[en] Fold-and-Thrust Belt ; Tianshan
[en] The east–west-trending late Cenozoic Kuqa fold belt is a part of the compressive southern margin of the Tianshan Mountains in western China. Approximately 20,000 km (12,000 mi) of two-dimensional seismic reflection profiles are integrated with surface geology and well data to examine the deformation style and structural evolution of the Kuqa fold belt. Mesozoic through Holocene strata in the northern Tarim Basin have been deformed in a thrust system that roots northward into the Paleozoic basement of the southern Tianshan. The south-vergent deformation is characterized by a series of forward-breaking thrust faults, fault-related folds, and detachment folds. Two major decollement levels exist: an upper detachment in salt-gypsum lithologies in the Paleogene–Miocene Kumgeliem, Suweiyi, and Jidike formations, and the lower detachment mostly within Jurassic coal and mudstone strata. Fault-propagation folds developed above both detachments and have been refolded in some cases by displacement on the lower thrust faults. Imbricate thrust faults and duplex structures linking the two detach- ments developed with salt that apparently flowed into the cores of the duplex structure. Near the high Tianshan mountain front, Mesozoic and Cenozoic strata are involved in deformation that began at approximately 25–26 Ma as documented by growth strata north of Kuqa. To- ward the southward limit of the fold belt, Miocene through Holocene strata are folded in the Quilitage and Yaken anticlines, which began growing above a thrust system that propagated at about 5.5 Ma. The Yaken anticline at the south edge of the eastern Kuqa fold belt has only emerged as a topographic anticline in the last 0.2 – 0.3 Ma associated with an acceleration of the Quilitage-Yaken thrust system. Structural restoration suggests a shortening of 15–20 km (9– 12 mi) across the eastern Kuqa fold belt. Considering that this shortening began about 25 Ma, the average shortening rate was about 0.7 mm/yr (0.03 in./yr). Because the frontal thrust system underlying the Quilitage and Yaken anticlines has a shortening of 6 km (3.7 mi) that began approximately 5.5 Ma, their average shortening rate is about 1.1 mm/yr (0.04 in./yr). However, the shortening rate on this frontal system from about 5.5 Ma to about 0.2–0.3 Ma is approximately 0.6 mm/yr (0.02 in./yr) followed by an acceleration to about 4–5 mm/yr (0.16–0.19 in./yr) at approximately 0.2–0.3 Ma, causing the topographic emergence of these structures. These results indicate that shortening rates in the Kuqa fold belt have increased in the late Pleistocene, which is consistent with more regional present-day geodetic shortening rates of about 9 mm/yr (0.35 in./yr) across the southern Tianshan, which also indicate a substantial acceleration relative to Neogene shortening rates.