Deformation structures in the frontal prism near the Japan Trench: Insights from sandbox models

Santanu Bose, Puspendu Saha, James J. Mori, Christie Rowe, Kohtaro Ujiie, Frederick M. Chester, Marianne Conin, Christine Regalla, Jun Kameda, Virginia Toy, James Kirkpatrick, Francesca Remitti, J. Casey Moore, Monica Wolfson-Schwehr, Yasuyuki Nakamura, Anchit Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We have used sandbox experiments to explore the mechanics of the frontal prism structures documented by seismic reflection data and new borehole from IODP Expedition 343 (JFAST). This study investigated the effects of down-dip (normal to trench axis) variations in frictional resistance along a decollement on the structural development of the frontal wedges near subduction zones. Interpretation of seismic reflection images indicates that the wedge has been effected by trench-parallel horst-and-graben structures in the subducting plate. We performed sandbox experiments with down-dip patches of relatively high and low friction on the basal decollement to simulate the effect of variable coupling over subducting oceanic plate topography. Our experiments verify that high frictional resistance on the basal fault can produce the internal deformation and fault-and-fold structures observed in the frontal wedge by the JFAST expedition. Subduction of patches of varying friction caused a temporal change in the style of internal deformation within the wedge and gave rise to two distinctive structural domains, separated by a break in the surface slope of the wedge: (i) complexly deformed inner wedge with steep surface slope and (ii) shallow taper outer wedge, with a sequence of imbricate thrusts. Our experiments further demonstrate that the topographic slope-break in the wedge develops when the hinterland part of the wedge essentially stops deforming internally, leading to in-sequence thrusting with the formation of an outer wedge with low taper angle. For a series of alternate high and low frictional conditions on the basal fault the slope of the wedge varies temporally between a topographic slope-break and uniformly sloping wedge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-38
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Fault friction
  • Horst-and-graben structure
  • Inner and outer wedge
  • Sandbox experiments
  • Slope-break

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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