Combining satellite and seismic images to analyse the shallow structure of the Dead Sea Transform near the DESERT transect

D. Kesten, M. Weber*, Ch Haberland, Ch Janssen, A. Agnon, Y. Bartov, I. Rabba

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The left-lateral Dead Sea Transform (DST) in the Middle East is one of the largest continental strike-slip faults of the world. The southern segment of the DST in the Arava/Araba Valley between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, called Arava/Araba Fault (AF), has been studied in detail in the multidisciplinary DESERT (DEad SEa Rift Transect) project. Based on these results, here, the interpretations of multi-spectral (ASTER) satellite images and seismic reflection studies have been combined to analyse geologic structures. Whereas satellite images reveal neotectonic activity in shallow young sediments, reflection seismic image deep faults that are possibly inactive at present. The combination of the two methods allows putting some age constraint on the activity of individual fault strands. Although the AF is clearly the main active fault segment of the southern DST, we propose that it has accommodated only a limited (up to 60 km) part of the overall 105 km of sinistral plate motion since Miocene times. There is evidence for sinistral displacement along other faults, based on geological studies, including satellite image interpretation. Furthermore, a subsurface fault is revealed ≈4 km west of the AF on two ≈E-W running seismic reflection profiles. Whereas these seismic data show a flower structure typical for strike-slip faults, on the satellite image this fault is not expressed in the post-Miocene sediments, implying that it has been inactive for the last few million years. About 1 km to the east of the AF another, now buried fault, was detected in seismic, magnetotelluric and gravity studies of DESERT. Taking together various evidences, we suggest that at the beginning of transform motion deformation occurred in a rather wide belt, possibly with the reactivation of older ≈N-S striking structures. Later, deformation became concentrated in the region of today's Arava Valley. Till ≈5 Ma ago there might have been other, now inactive fault traces in the vicinity of the present day AF that took up lateral motion. Together with a rearrangement of plates ≈5 Ma ago, the main fault trace shifted then to the position of today's AF.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)153-169
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our contractors the Geophysical Institute of Israel, the Site Group (Jordan) and the Chemical and Mining Industries (Jordan) for their excellent work under difficult logistic conditions. The instruments for the fieldwork were provided by the Geophysical Instrument Pool of the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ). The experiments were funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the GFZ and the Minerva Dead Sea Research Centre.


  • ASTER satellite images
  • Dead Sea Transform
  • Seismics
  • Shearzones
  • Tectonics


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