Structural geometries and magnitude of shortening in the eastern Kura fold-thrust belt, Azerbaijan: Implications for the development of the Greater Caucasus Mountains

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The Greater Caucasus are the northernmost extent of the Arabia-Eurasia collision and are thought to represent the main locus of shortening within the central portion of the collision zone between 40° and 48°E. Recent work suggests that in detail, since the Plio-Pleistocene, much of the shortening in the eastern portion of the Caucasus system has been focused within the Kura fold-thrust belt along the southeastern margin of the Greater Caucasus. Here we present new field mapping and stratigraphic investigations of the eastern termination of the Kura fold-thrust belt in Azerbaijan to better constrain the structural geometries, magnitude of shortening, and initiation age for this portion of the fold-thrust belt. Our work suggests that this area of the fold-thrust belt exhibits significant along-strike variations in structural style and evolution and can effectively be divided into two distinct domains at ~48°E. The western domain is characterized by a subcritical median surface slope and isolated folds and thrusts propagating out of sequence, whereas the eastern domain is dominated by a single duplex structure and a history of in-sequence development in a critically tapered wedge. We hypothesize that these variations result from changes in relative rates of syn-tectonic sedimentation, erosion, and convergence velocity along strike. We find that within the western domain, the fold-thrust belt has accommodated ~12 km of total shortening. An unconformity within the western domain brackets the initiation age of this portion of the fold-thrust belt to between 1.8 and 0.88 Ma yielding permissible average shortening rates of between 6.7 and 13.6 mm/yr. Comparison of these average shortening rates to the geodetically measured shortening rate of 8 mm/yr indicates that since initiation, the fold-thrust belt has accommodated 83-100% of convergence between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus at this longitude. © 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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