Geophysical Studies of the Lithosphere Along the Dead Sea Transform

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Publication Year: 
Springer Netherlands, Editors: Zvi Garfunkel, Zvi Ben-Avraham, Elisa Kagan, pp.29-52

In this chapter we report on the deep structure of the Dead Sea Transform (DST) as derived from geophysical observations and numerical modelling, calibrated by geological and geodynamic evidence. We use seismics, seismology and gravity to study the crust and lithosphere of the Dead Sea Transform (DST) system. These observations are integrated with 3D thermo-mechanical modelling of the evolution of the DST through time to understand the deeper structure of the DST. The three seismic profiles crossing the DST from the Mediterranean in the West to the Jordan highlands in the East show an increase in Moho depth from about 25 km to about 35 km; with only minor topography. This depth increase of about 10 km of the Moho from West to East is also found in tomographic images using regional and teleseismic events, which shows additionally a N – S trending thickening of the crust under the Arava/Araba Fault (AF). In the Dead Sea Basin (DSB) proper the imaging of the Moho is complicated by the presence of the Lisan Salt dome. From these results and other evidence we conclude that the Dead Sea basin is a mostly upper crustal feature with a decoupling zone at about 20 km depth. Using SKS waves we find below the Moho under the DST a narrow, ca. 20 km wide, vertical decoupling zone reaching into the mantle, representing the boundary layer between the African and Arabian plates. This observation agrees with the results from the study of surface waves that also show a region of reduced S-velocities under the DST, reaching down into the lithosphere. Whereas the lithosphere thins gradually east of the DST from N to S from ca. 80 to ca. 67 km, below about 120 km depth little structure can be observed in tomographic images. The abovementioned observational constraints can all be fitted with the classical pull-apart model, if the lithosphere was thermally eroded to 80 km thickness about 20 Ma ago, combined with weak rheologies for crust and upper mantle. The most likely explanation of the features described is thus a thinning of the lithosphere around the DST in the Late Cenozoic, likely following by rifting and spreading of the Red Sea.