Morphology and tectonics of the Andaman Forearc, northeastern Indian Ocean

Cochran, James R.

The Andaman Sea has developed as the result of highly oblique subduction at the western Sunda Trench, leading to partitioning of convergence into trench-perpendicular and trench-parallel components and the formation of a northward-moving sliver plate to accommodate the trench parallel motion. The Andaman forearc contains structures resulting from both components of motion. The main elements of the forearc are the accretionary prism and outerarc ridge, a series of forearc basins and major N–S faults. The accretionary prism is an imbricate stack of fault slices and folds consisting of ophiolites and sediments scrapped off the subducting Indian Plate. The western, outer slope of the accretionary prism is very steep, rising to depths of 1500–2000 m within a distance of 30 km. There is a difference in the short wavelength morphology between the western and eastern portions of the accretionary prism. The outer portion consists of a series of faulted anticlines and synclines with amplitudes of a few 100 to ∼1000 m and widths of 5 - 15 km resulting from ongoing deformation of the sediments. The inner portion is smoother with lower slopes and forms a strong backstop. The width of the deforming portion of the accretionary prism narrows from 80 to 100 km in the south to about 40 km between 10° N and 11° 30' N. It remains at about 40 km to ∼ 14° 40' N. North of there, the inner trench wall becomes a single steep slope up to the Myanmar shelf. The eastern edge of the outerarc ridge is fault bounded and, north of the Nicobar Islands, a forearc basin is located immediately to the east. A deep gravity low with very steep gradients lies directly over the forearc basin. The West Andaman Fault (WAF) and/or the Seulimeum strand of the Sumatra Fault System form the boundary between the Burma and Sunda plates south of the Andaman spreading center. The WAF is the most prominent morphologic feature of the Andaman Sea and divides the sea into a shallow forearc and a deeper backarc region. The Diligent Fault runs through the forearc basin east of Little Andaman Island. Although it has the general appearance of a normal fault, multichannel seismic data show that it is a compressional feature that probably resulted from deformation of the hanging wall of the Eastern Margin Fault. This could occur if the forearc basins were formed by subduction erosion of the underlying crust rather than by east–west extension.

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Also Published In

Geophysical Journal International

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
June 26, 2019