Systematic analyses of the large-scale topography and structure across the Dead Sea Rift

Shimon Wdowinski, Ezra Zilberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The Dead Sea Rift (DSR) is one of the deepest continental depressions on the Earth's surface and is the best example of a continental rift lying along a transform plate boundary (the Dead Sea Transform). We systematically analyze the large-scale topography, structure, and morphology across the central part of the DSR between Lake Kinneret and the Gulf of Elat and show a distinct asymmetrical topographic pattern across the rift axis. The topography analysis uses a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of Israel and adjacent areas to plot a series of 64 profiles perpendicular to the rift axis. The profiles show that the eastern side is topographically higher than the western side and that its overall shape resembles an uplifted shoulder; the lower western side resembles an arch. This analysis also reveals along-strike variations in the topography that allow us to subdivide the central DSR into five segments of similar topography. The large-scale structure across the DSR is investigated by a series of 10 geological cross sections drawn perpendicular to the rift axis along the five segments. On the basis of the stratigraphic record and the geological history of the region, we identify a regional marker (Top Eocene Sequence) to trace the riftrelated structure. This marker shows that the structure parallels the topographic asymmetry across the rift axis: the rift's eastern margin is uplifted toward the axis, whereas the rift's western margin is downflexed toward the axis and defines a wide asymmetrical monocline. Our analyses indicate that (1) the large-scale asymmetry across the DSR reflects a wide half-graben structure (30-60 km wide), (2) the rift's eastern margin reflects broad regional uplift along the rift, and (3) the western side arching is a subsidary structure that follows the main rift structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-424
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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