The switch in direction of convergence between Central Iran and the Eurasian Plate is believed to have a significant impact on the structural style in the Alborz Mountains, in the north of Iran. To understand the deformation pattern and investigate the influence of the South Caspian Basin kinematics since the middle Miocene on the structural styles and active tectonics of the Alborz Mountains, a series of scaled analogue models were prepared, in which passively layered loose sand simulating the sedimentary units were subjected to orthogonal and subsequently oblique shortening by a rigid indenter. Model results indicate that during the shortening, an arcuate-shaped foreland-vergent imbricate stack forms in front of the indenter. The orthogonal shortening is characterized by a prevailing right-lateral and left-lateral oblique-slip motion in the east and west of the model, respectively. This shift in kinematics contradicts the proposed preneotectonic (orthogonal) model of the Alborz. However, during oblique shortening, model results show that deformation is mainly accommodated by left-lateral transpression within the sand wedge and internal deformation. Oblique shortening is consistently accommodated by continued left-lateral motion on the west-northwest-trending oblique thrusts, whereas the east–west-trending thrusts and the preexisting east-northeast-trending right-lateral oblique thrusts reactivate as left-lateral oblique faults. Precise monitoring of the model surface also illustrates partitioning of shortening into the foreland-vergent left-lateral thrusting in the south and hinterland-vergent back thrusting in the north. These model results are generally consistent with field observations and GPS data of structure and kinematics of the Alborz Mountains.

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