A discussion paper by Jean-Baptiste Koehl, titled “Early Cenozoic Eurekan strain partitioning and decoupling in central Spitsbergen, Svalbard”, is in review for the journal Solid Earth. The scientific community is invited to participate in the interactive discussion, which is open until 30 November 2020.
The present study of field, petrological, exploration well and seismic data shows that backward-dipping duplexes comprised of phyllitic coal and bedding-parallel décollements and thrusts, which localized along lithological transitions in tectonically thickened Lower–lowermost Upper Devonian, uppermost Devonian–Mississippian and uppermost Pennsylvanian–lowermost Permian sedimentary strata of the Wood Bay and/or Widje Bay and/or Grey Hoek formations, of the Billefjorden Group and of the Wordiekammen Formation respectively, partially decoupled uppermost Devonian–Permian sedimentary rocks of the Billefjorden and Gipsdalen groups from Lower–lowermost Upper Devonian rocks of the Andrée Land Group and Mimerdalen Subgroup during early Cenozoic Eurekan deformation in central Spitsbergen. Eurekan strain decoupling along these structures explains differential deformation between Lower–lowermost Upper Devonian rocks of the Andrée Land Group/Mimerdalen Subgroup and overlying uppermost Devonian–Permian sedimentary strata of the Billefjorden and Gipsdalen groups in central–northern Spitsbergen without requiring an episode of (Ellesmerian) contraction in the Late Devonian. Potential formation mechanisms for bedding-parallel décollements and thrusts include shortcut faulting, and/or formation as a roof décollement in a fault-bend hanging wall (or ramp) anticline, as an imbricate fan, as an antiformal thrust stack, and/or as fault-propagation folds over reactivated/overprinted basement-seated faults. The interpretation of seismic data in Reindalspasset indicates that Devonian sedimentary rocks of the Andrée Land Group and Mimerdalen Subgroup might be preserved east of the Billefjorden Fault Zone, suggesting that the Billefjorden Fault Zone did not accommodate reverse movement in the Late Devonian. Hence, the thrusting of Proterozoic basement rocks over Lower Devonian sedimentary rocks along the Balliolbreen Fault and fold structures within strata of the Andrée Land Group and Mimerdalen Subgroup in central Spitsbergen may be explained by a combination of down-east Carboniferous normal faulting with associated footwall rotation and exhumation, and subsequent top-west early Cenozoic Eurekan thrusting along the Billefjorden Fault Zone. Finally, the study shows that major east-dipping faults, like the Billefjorden Fault Zone, may consists of several, discrete, unconnected (soft-linked and/or stepping) or, most probably, offset fault segments that were reactivated/overprinted with varying degree during Eurekan deformation due to strain partitioning and/or decoupling along sub-orthogonal NNE-dipping reverse faults.