EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Punctuated propagation of a corrugated extensional detachment offshore West of Ireland

Gaël Lymer1,2, Conrad Childs1,2, and John Walsh1,2
Gaël Lymer et al.
  • 1University College Dublin, School of Earth Sciences, Dublin, Ireland (
  • 2iCRAG, Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences

Corrugated detachments are fundamental crustal structures found in many extensional systems and plate tectonic boundaries, including mid-oceanic ridges and rifted margins. Direct observations of the complete geometry of extensional detachments are rare and our understanding of detachment fault structures and the mechanisms of development of high-angle normal faults and their rotation to lower angles mainly relies on proxy observations, for example seismicity trends, and numerical modelling.

We present interpretations of a high-resolution 3D seismic reflection survey from the hyperextended domain of the Porcupine Basin, Offshore West of Ireland. The 3D data image a highly reflective corrugated surface, the P reflector, that we interpret as an extensional detachment preserved in its slip position that likely developed at the top mantle surface during Jurassic hyperextension of the basin. Within the 3D data, the P reflector covers an area 95 km long and 35 km wide and has a domal shape that is elongate in the N-S direction with a crest at ~6.3 s two way travel time. It is the first time to our knowledge that 3D seismic data has imaged a complete detachment in the hyperextended area of a rifted margin, including its domal shape, the breakaway structures, and the linkage between the steep and shallow segments of the detachment. The resolved texture and geometry of the detachment and its relationship with overlying faults provide a basis for refining current models of detachment formation accommodating extreme extension.

Steep west-dipping faults mark the western frontal margin of the detachment. The steep faults pass eastward into shallower, predominantly west-dipping faults that appear to merge downwards with the P reflector. The P reflector has pronounced E-W corrugations, interpreted to indicate the detachment slip vector. The reflector is also characterised by abrupt changes in dip across N-S transverse ridges. These ridges are spaced on average 10 km apart, they coincide with lines of intersection between the P reflector and large overlying faults, and they often mark the termination of detachment corrugations. We interpret these ridges as recording former locations of the western boundary of the detachment so that they indicate a step-wise westward propagation of the P reflector. While it is generally accepted that detachments develop by oceanward propagation, we suggest that the faceted nature of the detachment indicates that this process is a punctuated one and that the clearly imaged transverse ridges record the oceanward stepping of the detachment with the initiation of a new family of steep faults.

We propose a new concept for the growth of detachments that may be applicable to other detachments that accommodate extreme extension, for example at mid-oceanic slow and ultra-slow spreading ridges.

How to cite: Lymer, G., Childs, C., and Walsh, J.: Punctuated propagation of a corrugated extensional detachment offshore West of Ireland, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1799,, 2022.


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