We used seismic refraction to image the P-wave velocity structure of a shale watershed experiencing regional compression in the Valley and Ridge Province (USA). From estimates showing strong compressional stress, we expected the depth to unweathered bedrock to mirror the hill-valley-hill topography (“bowtie pattern”) by analogy to seismic velocity patterns in crystalline bedrock in the North American Piedmont that also experience compression. Previous researchers used failure potentials calculated for strong compression in the Piedmont to suggest fractures are open deeper under hills than valleys to explain the “bowtie” pattern. Seismic images of the shale watershed, however, show little evidence of such a “bowtie.” Instead, they are consistent with weak (not strong) compression. This contradiction could be explained by the greater importance of infiltration-driven weathering than fracturing in determining seismic velocities in shale compared to crystalline bedrock, or to local perturbations of the regional stress field due to lithology or structures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences