Morphological evidence of the extension of the Zabargad Transform Fault Zone to the Saudi Arabian Red Sea margin

Alexander Petrovic, Yuri Panara, Volker Vahrenkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fault locations and orientation of the Zabargad Transform Fault Zone, also called the Zabargad Fracture Zone (ZFZ) have, so far, only been delineated by satellite-based geophysical data, causing intense debate over the last decades. Newly recognized geomorphological features identified in bathymetry and lidar data from the NE Red Sea margin present the first ground evidence for the northern extent of the ZFZ. The features are aligned over 84 km starting from the Mabahiss Deep, near the spreading axis, and continue to the shallow Saudi Arabian shelf, along the northern termination of the Al Wajh carbonate platform. Analysis of the seafloor morphology revealed three geomorphic terrains: (1) a deep incised canyon feeding into the Mabahiss Deep, which is characterized by dozens of amphitheatre-shaped scarps, (2) a 22 km-wide head-scarp that follows the Al Wajh platform edge, (3) and multiple fault scars and graben-like structures on the shallow shelf. We interpret these morphological features as deformation indicators in association with the deformation processes in the ZFZ, and postulate that they represent the northern end of the ZFZ. In addition, the fault zone delineates the northwest margin of the Al Wajh carbonate platform, and most likely continues to shape it. This paper gives new insights in the interaction between fracture zones and continental margins and their role in the seafloor morphogenesis.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the Geological Society
StatePublished - Aug 22 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-08-31
Acknowledgements: This study was financed by faculty baseline funding to V. Vahrenkamp and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Endowment. We thank Red Sea Global to give us access to their property. We also thank the crew of RV THUWAL and the technicians of KAUST marine department CMOR. We thank Red Sea Global for providing the shallow-water bathymetry data set and publishing permission. We also thank William Bosworth and an anonymous reviewer, who helped to improve this manuscript with constructive comments.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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