Abstract

Despite the hazard caused by near-surface destructive horizontal displacements during earthquakes, field evidence for coseismic slip along horizontal discontinuities is exceptionally rare, mainly due to the lack of adequate exposure and markers. However, within the seismically active Dead Sea Basin, the late Pleistocene Lisan Formation contains vertical clastic dikes that are sheared laterally at maximum depths of 15 m, and thereby provide unique profiles of such horizontal displacement. In order to investigate how coseismic horizontal shearing is distributed near the surface, we document an ∼1-m-thick brittle shear zone, consisting of up to 11 slip surfaces that can be traced for tens of meters in the Lisan Formation. Displacements along individual slip surfaces are up to 0.6 m, and the total displacement across the shear zone is up to 2.0 m. Displacement profiles and gradients indicate that the brittle shear zone formed by simple shear, and deformation was associated with slip partitioning and transfer between primary and secondary slip surfaces. Evidence for concurrent displacement along slip surfaces during a single event indicates that the brittle shear zone was formed during a coseismic event subsequent to 30 ka. We consider the mechanical effect of seismic-wave–related transient stress, which, when added to the initial static effective stress, may result in concurrent horizontal shear failure along detrital-rich layers in the Lisan Formation. The exceptional quality of exposures and markers enables us to document, for the first time, the details of near-surface horizontal shearing, and indicates that displacement along horizontal bedding planes is a viable mechanism to absorb coseismic deformation in well-bedded near-surface strata.

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