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Oroclinal bending, distributed thrust and strike-slip faulting, and the accommodation of Arabia–Eurasia convergence in NE Iran since the Oligocene

Hollingsworth, James and Fattahi, Morteza and Walker, Richard and Talebian, Morteza and Bahroudi, Abbas and Bolourchi, Mohammad Javad and Jackson, James and Copley, Alex (2010) Oroclinal bending, distributed thrust and strike-slip faulting, and the accommodation of Arabia–Eurasia convergence in NE Iran since the Oligocene. Geophysical Journal International, 181 (3). pp. 1214-1246. ISSN 0956-540X.

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Regional shortening is accommodated across NE Iran in response to the collision of Arabia with Eurasia. We examine how N–S shortening is achieved on major thrust systems bounding the eastern branch of the Alborz (east of 57°E), Sabzevar and Kuh-e-Sorkh mountain ranges, which lie south of the Kopeh Dagh mountains in NE Iran. Although these ranges have experienced relatively few large earthquakes over the last 50 yr, they have been subject to a number of devastating historical events at Neyshabur, Esfarayen and Sabzevar. A significant change in the tectonics of the eastern Alborz occurs directly south of the Central Kopeh Dagh, near 57°E. To the east, shortening occurs on major thrust faults which bound the southern margin of the range, resulting in significant crustal thickening, and forming peaks up to 3000 m high. Active shortening dies out eastward into Afghanistan, which is thought to belong to stable Eurasia. The rate of shortening across thrust faults bounding the south side of the eastern Alborz north of Neyshabur is determined using optically stimulated luminescence dating of displaced river deposits, and is likely to be 0.4–1.7 mm yr^(−1). Shortening across the Sabzevar range 150 km west of Neyshabur has previously been determined at 0.4–0.6 mm yr^(−1), although reassessment of the rate here suggests it may be as high as 1 mm yr^(−1). Migration of thrust faulting into foreland basins is common across NE Iran, especially in the Esfarayen region near 57°E, where the northward deflection of the East Alborz range reaches a maximum of 200 ± 20 km (from its presumed linear E–W strike at the beginning of the Oligocene). West of 57°E, the tectonics of the Alborz are affected by the westward motion of the South Caspian region, which results in the partitioning of shortening onto separate thrust and left-lateral strike-slip faults north and south of the range. At the longitude of 59°E, published GPS velocities indicate that 50 per cent of the overall shortening across NE Iran is accommodated in the Kopeh Dagh. The remaining 50 per cent regional shortening must therefore be accommodated south of the Kopeh Dagh, in the eastern Alborz and Kuh-e-Sorkh ranges. Assuming present day rates of slip and the fault kinematics are representative of the Late Cenozoic deformation in NE Iran, the total 200 ± 20 km N–S shortening across the eastern Alborz and Kopeh Dagh mountains since the beginning of uplift of the Kopeh Dagh basin would be accommodated in 30 ± 8 Ma. Although this extrapolation may be inappropriate over such a long timescale, the age is nevertheless consistent with geological estimates of post Early-to-Middle Oligocene (<30 Ma) for the onset of Kopeh Dagh uplift.

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Hollingsworth, James0000-0003-0122-296X
Additional Information:© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 RAS. Accepted 2010 March 7. Received 2010 February 2; in original form 2009 January 24. We thank the Geological Survey of Iran for organizing all aspects of the fieldwork, and for their continued support of our work in Iran. Reza Tajik and Asghar Dolati provided valuable support both in the field and measuring GPS profiles at Neyshabur and Sabzevar. We are particularly grateful to Mr Taheri, Nasser Naimi and Nassir Nadheri, who helped organize various aspects of the fieldwork, and for making JH, RW and JJ so welcome at GSI Mashad. This work benefited from useful discussion with Dr M. Ghorashi, Jeff Ritz, Nicky White, Mahnaz Rezaeian, Dan McKenzie, Keith Priestley, Barry Parsons, Bob Engdahl, Eric Bergman, Jean-Philippe Avouac, Daniel Rham, Brian Emmerson and Beth Shaw. JH would like to thank the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes and Tectonics (COMET) for financial assistance, and for providing a stimulating environment for the discussion of active tectonics. Various images in this paper were created using the public domain Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) software (Wessel & Smith 1998). Ikonos and Quickbird satellite images were obtained from Google Earth (©2010 Google, ©2010 GeoEye, ©2010 DigitalGlobe), Landsat7 images from the USGS and NASA, via the Global Land Cover Facility at the University of Maryland, and ASTER and SRTM were obtained from the USGS and NASA. This work benefited greatly from careful reviews by Mike Taylor and three anonymous reviewers.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Geological Survey of IranUNSPECIFIED
Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes and Tectonics (COMET)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Geomorphology; Seismicity and tectonics; Continental neotectonics; Tectonics and landscape evolution; Asia
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100609-084111150
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:18612
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jun 2010 16:47
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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