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Strike-Slip Sedimentation: Dead Sea Basin

Warren Manspeizer

The Dead Sea rift extends for 1,000 km along a transform plate boundary that has had left-lateral displacement of 105 km since the Miocene. The rift consists of a series of en-echelon, left-stepping (looking north), north-striking, strike-slip faults that are joined by a series of grabens (e.g., the Dead Sea basin). This basin developed as an asymmetric rhomb-shaped graben with nearly vertical, north-striking normal border faults (east and west margins), north-northeast-dipping listric normal faults (south margin), and a south-facing inclined basement (north margin). Displacement along the transform produced three basins, whose depocenters migrated north where they received Miocene fluvial clastics, Pliocene marine evaporites, and Pleistocene-Holocene lacustrine sediments

Graben filling today is governed largely by tectonism, which modifies rift climates and morphology. As warm moist air from the Mediterranean Sea rises over the rift shoulders, it cools adiabatically, yielding up to 900 mm of rain water for high discharge, ephemeral streams that prograde vast prisms of coalescing shallow water fan deltas along the western border fault. The eastern basin margin, by contrast, is dominated by an active transform boundary, a narrow shelf, and a spectacular deep (750 m below MSL) that receives deep water clastics. Whereas the northern margin of the basin receives fine-grained clastics from the prograding delta of the Jordan River (a perennial stream, whose drainage basin lies in a humid terrane far to the north), the southern margin is dominated by evaporites that are precipitated in shallow water basins (upon adiabatic warming of descending air).

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.