Soft-sediment deformation in Lake Superior: Evidence for an immature Polygonal Fault Sytem?

Nigel J Wattrus, D. E. Rausch, J. Cartwright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


New multi-beam sonar and seismic data collected in Lake Superior document the widespread development of lake-floor rings in fine-grained lake-floor sediments. The multi-beam images reveal that the rings develop as connected clusters and that individual rings have an irregular polygonal appearance. High-resolution seismic data collected with a 28 kHz echo sounder reveal extensive fracturing and faulting in the glacio-lacustrine sediments below the lake-floor. Displacement on the faults is typically normal with throws of less than 50 cm. Three styles of faulting are recognized: (a) monoclinal flexure; (b) graben-like; and (c) conjugate. Zones of acoustic blanking below the faults may be associated with de-watering and mobilization of the sediments. Lateral thickness variation in some horizons suggests that fault and fracture development is linked with lateral movement of sediment. Piston cores collected near lake-floor rings show well-developed fractures and micro-faults, suggesting that fracturing and faulting occurs on a wide range of scales. The seismic and lithological characteristics of the glacio-lacustrine section are similar to those of sediments in which Polygonal Fault Systems (PFS) have been described. This suggests that the rings in Lake Superior may be the surface expression of PFS in the near-surface sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-334
Number of pages12
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


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