Single layer folding in simple shear

Maria-Gema Llorens*, Paul D. Bons, Albert Griera, Enrique Gomez-Rivas, Lynn A. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the common occurrence of simple shear deformation, laboratory and numerical simulations of folding have so far been almost exclusively in pure shear. Here we present a series of finite-element simulations of single layer folding in simple shear up to high shear strains (γ ≤ 4, and up to 75% shortening of the folding layer). In the simulations we vary the viscosity contrast between layer and its surroundings (25–100), the stress exponent (1 or 3) and the kinematics of deformation (pure- versus simple shear). In simple shear fold trains do not show a clear asymmetry, axial planes form perpendicular to the developing fold train and rotate along with the fold train. Differences in geometries between folds formed in simple and pure shear folds are thus difficult to distinguish visually, with simple shear folds slightly more irregular and with more variable axial plane orientation than in pure shear. Asymmetric refraction of an axial planar cleavage is a clearer indication of folding in simple shear. The main effect of an increase in stress exponent is an increase in effective viscosity contrast, with only a secondary effect on fold geometry. Naturally folded aplite dykes in a granodiorite are found in a shear zone in Roses, NE Spain. Comparison of the folded dykes with our numerical simulations indicates a viscosity contrast of around 25 and a stress exponent of 3. The natural folds confirm that at this moderate viscosity contrast, a significant amount of shortening (20–30%) is achieved by layer thickening instead of folding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-220
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Early online date21 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • simple shear
  • folding
  • strain analysis
  • vorticity
  • non-linear rheology
  • numerical modelling
  • wavelength selection
  • cleavage refraction
  • strain distribution
  • viscous materials
  • finite strain
  • buckle folds
  • deformation
  • rheology
  • rocks
  • lithosphere


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