Abstract

Although the geometry and kinematics of the first-order structures accommodating Arabia-Eurasia convergence are relatively well known in Turkey and Iran, major shortening structures remain poorly understood within the central portion of the collision zone, in eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. New remotely sensed neotectonic mapping, synthesis of regional geologic and stratigraphic data, and balanced cross sections suggest that the Kura fold-thrust belt has accommodated the majority of Arabia-Eurasia convergence since the early Pliocene between the longitudes of ∼45°E and ∼49°E. This belt lies southeast of the N80°W-striking Greater Caucasus Mountains and forms an eastward-narrowing band of elevated topography that roughly parallels the range front for ∼400 km along strike. The belt is separated from the Greater Caucasus to the north by the 10- to 25-km-wide Alazani Basin and comprises a series of predominantly south-verging folds deforming Eocene–Quaternary flysch and molasse. To document structural geometries within the Kura fold-thrust belt, we have used the Real-time Interactive Mapping System (RIMS) software to analyze Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), visible to near-infrared (VNIR), and digital elevation model (DEM) data. This neotectonic mapping indicates an along-strike, eastward decrease in both structural complexity and the degree to which deformed geomorphic surfaces are dissected. Existing geologic maps indicate a corresponding eastward decrease in the depth of exposure. By integrating the structural geometries determined in our analysis of remote-sensing data with existing geologic data, we have constructed two balanced cross sections, which suggest these systematic along-strike variations result from a west-to-east decrease in total shortening within the Kura fold-thrust belt. We interpret this variable shortening to stem from eastward propagation of the Kura fold-thrust belt. Comparison of our preliminary total shortening estimates with those predicted by current plate motions suggest that the Kura fold-thrust belt has accommodated ∼30%–40% (∼25 km) of total Arabia-Eurasia convergence since 5 Ma, and thus forms a first-order structural system within the central portion of the collision zone.

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