No fewer than four major tectonic plates (Arabia, Eurasia, India, and Africa) and one smaller tectonic block (Anatolia) are responsible for seismicity and tectonics in the Middle East and surrounding region. Geologic development of the region is a consequence of a number of first-order plate tectonic processes that include subduction, large-scale transform faulting, compressional mountain building, and crustal extension. In the east, tectonics are dominated by the collision of the India plate with Eurasia, driving the uplift of the Himalaya, Karakorum, Pamir and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. Beneath the Pamir‒Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur to depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. Along the western margin of the India plate, relative motions between India and Eurasia are accommodated by strike-slip, reverse, and oblique-slip faulting, resulting in the complex Sulaiman Range fold and thrust belt, and the major translational Chaman Fault in Afghanistan. Off the south coasts of Pakistan and Iran, the Makran trench is the surface expression of active subduction of the Arabia plate beneath Eurasia. Northwest of this subduction zone, collision between the two plates forms the approximately 1,500-km-long fold and thrust belts of the Zagros Mountains, which cross the whole of western Iran and extend into northeastern Iraq. Tectonics in the eastern Mediterranean region are dominated by complex interactions between the Africa, Arabia, and Eurasia plates, and the Anatolia block. Dominant structures in this region include: the Red Sea Rift, the spreading center between the Africa and Arabia plates; the Dead Sea Transform, a major strike-slip fault, also accommodating Africa-Arabia relative motions; the North Anatolia Fault, a right-lateral strike-slip structure in northern Turkey accommodating much of the translational motion of the Anatolia block westwards with respect to Eurasia and Africa; and the Cyprian Arc, a convergent boundary between the Africa plate to the south, and Anatolia Block to the north.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2010 Middle East and vicinity
Originally posted January 31, 2013; Revised January 28, 2014