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Peace and Science in the Middle East

Tectonics and Geology of the Dead Sea

      The study of the Dead Sea Transform is of fundamental significance to the Earth Sciences. Continental transform faults provide a simple setting in which deformation as a function of rock properties and temperature of the continental crust can be studied. These studies are important to the understanding of the long-term strength of the continental lithosphere, subsidence of sedimentary basins, and the earthquake deformation cycle. Unlike the San Andreas Fault, which is located over a recent subduction zone, The Dead Sea Transform is free of recent thermal and mechanical complications. It is located at the boundary between the stable Arabian shield and its Triassic-Jurassic Tethys passive continental margin (the present eastern Mediterranean).

      The Dead Sea Transform (DST), also known as the Dead Sea Fault System, is a north-south striking left-lateral shear zone extending from the incipient oceanic ridge (Red Sea) in the south to the Taurus plate collision in the north (Turkey). About 105-110 km of left-lateral displacement between the African and Arabian tectonic plates took place along this fault system during the last 15 million years. The average rate of motion during the last 5 million years is 5 millimeters per year. The Dead Sea Valley is part of the DST that runs between Jordan and Israel. The valley, much of it below sea level, contains subsurface sedimentary basins and is surrounded by highlands on both sides. The shape of this topography gave rise to the popular name “The Dead Sea Rift”. Within the valley there are numerous subsurface pull-apart basins of different sizes. Pull-apart basins are generated by fault-parallel extension in areas of geometrical irregularities within strike-slip faults. As such, these basins represent mechanical extension of the crust with little contribution from external or internal heating.


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