Intrabasin paleoearthquake and quiescence correlation of the late Holocene Dead Sea

Elisa Kagan*, Mordechai Stein, Amotz Agnon, Frank Neumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


A comprehensive multisite paleoseismic archive of the late Holocene Dead Sea basin (past 2500 years) is established by constructing two age-depth chronological models of two sedimentary sections exposed at the retreating shores of the modern Dead Sea. Two new paleoseismic study sites studied are the Ein Feshkha Nature Reserve outcrop located at the northern part of the basin and close to an active underwater transverse fault and the east Ze'elim Gully outcrop at the southern part of the basin. Age-depth regression models are calculated for these sections based on atmospheric radiocarbon ages of short-lived organic debris calibrated with a Bayesian model. The uncertainties on individual model ages are smaller than 100 years. The new chronological records are compared to a laminae-counting study of the Ein Gedi core (Migowski et al., 2004) located at the central Dead Sea basin. The Ein Feshkha outcrop yielded the largest number of seismites in the studied time interval (n = 52), while lower numbers of seismites are recovered from the Ze'elim outcrop and Ein Gedi core (n = 15 and 36, respectively). The seismites show no strong dependence on the limnological-sedimentological conditions in the particular sampling sites (they coappear in both shallow and deep water environments and in different sedimentary facies). During time intervals when the chronologies are comparable it appears that the number of seismites is significantly larger in the northern part of the basin (Ein Gedi and Ein Feshkha). Seismic quiescence intervals are apparent at all three sites from 2nd-4th century A.D. and at 500-150 B.C. at Ze'elim and Ein Gedi. Several synchronous seismites appear in all sections (termed here the intrabasin seismites (IBS)). Among them: 1927, 1293, 1202/1212, 749, 551, 419, and 33 A.D. and 31 and mid-2nd century B.C. The recurrence time of the IBS from the 2nd century B.C. to the 14th century A.D. is ∼200 years, compared with ∼100 years for all earthquakes. On a diagram of epicentral distance versus magnitude, historic earthquakes that are correlated with IBS plot in a field of high local intensity. The farther and stronger IBS earthquakes require lower local intensities to be recorded. This study demonstrates that a painstaking effort is still needed for unraveling the seismic history of the Dead Sea basin. The results also indicate that such a study will likely be highly rewarding.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberB04311
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2011


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