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Title: The Deep Structure and Rheology of a Plate Boundary-Scale Shear Zone: Constraints from an Exhumed Caledonian Shear Zone, NW Scotland

Below the seismogenic zone, faults are expressed as zones of distributed ductile strain in which minerals deform chiefly by crystal plastic and diffusional processes. We present a case study from the Caledonian frontal thrust system in northwest Scotland to better constrain the geometry, internal structure, and rheology of a major zone of reverse-sense shear below the brittle-to-ductile transition (BDT). Rocks now exposed at the surface preserve a range of shear zone conditions reflecting progressive exhumation of the shear zone during deformation. Field-based measurements of structural distance normal to the Moine Thrust Zone, which marks the approximate base of the shear zone, together with microstructural observations of active slip systems and the mechanisms of deformation and recrystallization in quartz, are paired with quantitative estimates of differential stress, deformation temperature, and pressure. These are used to reconstruct the internal structure and geometry of the Scandian shear zone from ~10 to 20 km depth. We document a shear zone that localizes upwards from a thickness of >2.5 km to <200 m with temperature ranging from ~450–350°C and differential stress from 15–225 MPa. We use estimates of deformation conditions in conjunction with independently calculated strain rates to compare between experimentally derived constitutive relationships and conditions observed in naturally-deformed rocks. Lastly, pressure and converted shear stress are used to construct a crustal strength profile through this contractional orogen. We calculate a peak shear stress of ~130 MPa in the shallowest rocks which were deformed at the BDT, decreasing to <10 MPa at depths of ~20 km. Our results are broadly consistent with previous studies which find that the BDT is the strongest region of the crust.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.2113
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Medium: X
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National Science Foundation
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