The Dead Sea Transform: Evidences for a strong fault?

Geological and geochemical studies have been conducted on the Arava Fault segment, which forms the major branch of the Dead Sea Transform between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. Meso- to micro-scale faulting and veining related to this fault is described from limestone sequences of two locations (area A and B) that represent different depth-sections. In area A, pressure ridges expose the exhumed fault. Deformation mechanisms indicate that faulting took place at temperatures between 150 and 300°C, which suggests faulting depths between 2-5 km with respect to published geothermal gradients. In area B, brittle fault damage forms a zone up to 150 m wide. The fault core is not exposed. Faulting took place at temperatures below 200°C (up to 3 km depth). In both areas, we found indications for a strong fault. Our kinematic analysis exhibits that the angle Ψ between δ1 and the strike of the Dead Sea Transform immediately adjacent to the fault is ≤45°. The twin-density technique yields differential stress values up to a peak stress of 200 MPa in fault rocks of area A. The strontium isotopic composition of vein fillings was used to demonstrate that the fluids were dominantly derived from stratigraphically younger carbonate units than the faulted rocks. Later generations of veins have more radiogenic 87Sr/86Sr, which is indicative for a derivation of fluids from stratigraphically increasingly higher levels as deformation progresses. For fluids expulsed by seismic pumping from marine carbonates, the variation of 87Sr/86Sr in vein calcites implies that (i) the expulsed fluids are replaced by fluids originating from stratigraphically higher reservoirs, (ii) there was not enough time for isotopic strontium re-equilibration between fluids and their new host-rocks, requiring fractures to have been opened and closed within a geologically short interval, and (iii) the most radiogenic 87Sr/86Sr, corresponding to the youngest fluid reservoir, yields a maximum age for the major activity along this fault. A 87Sr/86Sr value of 0.7081 for a fluid that equilibrated with marine carbonates corresponds to a maximum age of 30 Ma.

Arava fault