Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dead Sea Transform

The Dead Sea Transform marks the western edge of the Arabian Plate, extending from the East Anatolian Fault (in southeastern Turkey) to the northern portion of the Red Sea.  Much of the Transform is occupied by the Jordan River Valley; 220 miles long, the Jordan River rises on the slopes of Mt. Hermon (along the border of Syria and Lebanon) and flows southward to the Dead Sea, passing through the Sea of Galilee en route.  The southern end of the Dead Sea Transform is occupied by the Gulf of Aqaba, the northeastern arm of the Red Sea (and the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula).

The northward movement of the Arabian Plate (which continues today) began in concert with the opening of the Red Sea (part of the East African Rift), a tectonic process that dates back to the Miocene (some 10-15 million years ago).  Whether the Dead Sea Transform is merely a transform fault between the African and Arabian Plates (comparable to the San Andreas Fault between the North American and Pacific Plates) or whether it, like the Red Sea, is a true rift valley is a matter of debate among geologists.

The Dead Sea, 1300 feet below sea level, is the lowest point on Earth's Continents.  Whether the Jordan Valley is a spreading rift valley or not, one suspects that it will one day be flooded by the sea, continuous with the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.