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Abstract

The Zagros Mountains are situated along the NE margin of the Arabian plate and are the product of complex deformation which began in Late Cretaceous time as a result of the collision between the Arabian and Central Iranian plates. During Pliocene time, deformation increased when plate convergence was accelerated by the opening of the Red Sea. This stimulated the migration of a deformation front from the collision zone towards the SW into the undisturbed Zagros basin and led to the creation of the Zagros Mountain Belt. The type and distribution of the deformation in the Zagros are controlled mainly by plate velocity, which is linked to the anticlockwise rotation of the Arabian plate around a pole in Syria, and the regional stratigraphy. The sedimentary cover and the underlying metamorphic basement decouple along an important detachment horizon, the Hormuz Salt Formation, and the uneven thickness and distribution of this salt plays a key role in determining the geometry of the deformation belt. Analysis of the distribution and geometry of the folds provides evidence for the southwestwards migration of the deformation front into the Arabian plate. The analyses are consistent with field evidence for serial folding, which indicates that each fold takes c. 600 ka to develop fully, and with the model of a southwestward advancing deformation front driven by the processes of serial folding and footwall collapse.

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