Historic Earthquakes: Tectonic Summary

Magnitude 5.3 DEAD SEA REGION
2004 February 11 08:15:03 UTC

Many earthquakes are documented in the long history of the region that comprises present-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. Archeological evidence suggests that Jericho, very near the epicenter of the February 11 earthquake, was destroyed by earthquake at about 1560 B.C. An earthquake estimated to have had a magnitude larger than 7 was destructive in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee in about 760 B.C. North of the epicenter of the February 11 earthquake, in Syria and Lebanon, destructive earthquakes with magnitudes exceeding 7 are documented for 1202 A.D. and 1759 A.D. The magnitude 6.3 earthquake of July 11, 1927, with an epicenter near the epicenter of today's earthquake, killed about 500 people.

The tectonics of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank are dominated by the northward motion of the African plate with respect to the Arabian plate, with a velocity of about 6 mm/yr. Motion is accommodated principally by slip along the Dead Sea fault zone. The preliminary location of the February 11 earthquake places it within the Dead Sea fault zone. On a regional scale, the Dead Sea fault zone is a left-lateral strike-slip fault, but both strike-slip fault-strands and normal-slip fault-strands have been geologically mapped within the Dead Sea fault zone near the epicenter of the February 11 earthquake. Instrumentally recorded earthquakes have been caused by both strike-slip faulting and normal faulting. The type of faulting that caused the February 11 earthquake has not yet been determined.