Chronology of post-Messinian faulting along the Levant continental margin and its implications for salt tectonics

Y. Elfassi*, Z. Gvirtzman, O. Katz, E. Aharonov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Numerous normal faults, expressing thin-skinned salt tectonics, are detected along the Levant continental slope, 15–30 km west of the Israeli coast. Previous studies estimated that this faulting initiated during Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene, which leaves an uncertainty of about 50% in the total duration of active faulting. The purpose of this study is to improve the dating of the onset of faulting, and to reconstruct displacement rates with time. This will allow better understanding of salt tectonics as well as better assessment of geohazards. To increase dating resolution, we use 2D and 3D seismic material integrated with well logs and cuttings to combine bio- and seismo-stratigraphic data and to divide the Plio-Quaternary section offshore Israel to 4 depositional units: Pliocene (5.33–2.6 Ma); Gelasian (2.6–1.8 Ma); Calabrian-Ionian (1.8–0.35 Ma); and Ionian-Holocene (<0.35 Ma). Then, we measure displacement of dated horizons, reconstruct displacement history along faults, and identify syn-tectonic depositional units that thicken towards growth faults. Our analysis shows that during the Pliocene (duration of 2.7 my) faulting activity was minor. In the Gelasian (duration of 0.8 my) faulting activity peaked alongside huge slumping. In the past 1.8 my, faulting and slumping had both decreased, but they are still active today. The observation that the onset of faulting significantly predates the progradation of the shelf edge to its present location indicates that differential loading was probably not the first trigger that initiated salt tectonics offshore Israel. The association of intense faulting and slumping in the Gelasian is interpreted as a result of basinwards tilting due to regional inland uplift and basin subsidence. Yet positive feedback between faulting and slumping cannot be ruled out. The presence of fault scars on the present seafloor, where current sedimentation rate is similar and even faster than the average displacement rate, apparently indicates that faulting is dominated by sudden seismic ruptures rather than by continued creeping. Hence, considering sedimentation rate of about 50 m/my, a 1 m high fault scarp should be roughly younger than about 20 ky.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)574-588
Number of pages15
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
StatePublished - Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bio-stratigraphy
  • Displacement rate
  • Levant
  • Messinian
  • Plio-quaternary
  • Salt tectonics
  • Seismo-stratigraphy
  • Syn-tectonic thickening


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