Anatomy of the dead sea transform from lithospheric to microscopic scale

Reviews of Geophysics

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DOI: 10.1029/2008RG000264



Fault zones are the locations where motion of tectonic plates, often associated with earthquakes, is accommodated. Despite a rapid increase in the understanding of faults in the last decades, our knowledge of their geometry, petrophysical properties, and controlling processes remains incomplete. The central questions addressed here in our study of the Dead Sea Transform (DST) in the Middle East are as follows: (1) What are the structure and kinematics of a large fault zone? (2) What controls its structure and kinematics? (3) How does the DST compare to other plate boundary fault zones? The DST has accommodated a total of 105 km of leftlateral transform motion between the African and Arabian plates since early Miocene (???20 Ma). The DST segment between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, called the Arava/ Araba Fault (AF), is studied here using a multidisciplinary and multiscale approach from the ??m to the plate tectonic scale. We observe that under the DST a narrow, subvertical zone cuts through crust and lithosphere. First, from west to east the crustal thickness increases smoothly from 26 to 39 km, and a subhorizontal lower crustal reflector is detected east of the AF. Second, several faults exist in the upper crust in a 40 km wide zone centered on the AF, but none have kilometer-size zones of decreased seismic velocities or zones of high electrical conductivities in the upper crust expected for large damage zones. Third, the AF is the main branch of the DST system, even though it has accommodated only a part (up to 60 km) of the overall 105 km of sinistral plate motion. Fourth, the AF acts as a barrier to fluids to a depth of 4 km, and the lithology changes abruptly across it. Fifth, in the top few hundred meters of the AF a locally transpressional regime is observed in a 100-300 m wide zone of deformed and displaced material, bordered by subparallel faults forming a positive flower structure. Other segments of the AF have a transtensional character with small pull-aparts along them. The damage zones of the individual faults are only 5-20 m wide at this depth range. Sixth, two areas on the AF show mesoscale to microscale faulting and veining in limestone sequences with faulting depths between 2 and 5 km. Seventh, fluids in the AF are carried downward into the fault zone. Only a minor fraction of fluids is derived from ascending hydrothermal fluids. However, we found that on the kilometer scale the AF does not act as an important fluid conduit. Most of these findings are corroborated using thermomechanical modeling where shear deformation in the upper crust is localized in one or two major faults; at larger depth, shear deformation occurs in a 20-40 km wide zone with a mechanically weak decoupling zone extending subvertically through the entire lithosphere. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.

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Anatomy of the dead sea transform from lithospheric to microscopic scale
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Reviews of Geophysics
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Reviews of Geophysics