Revisiting the geodynamics of the Middle East region from an integrated geophysical perspective

C. Civiero, N.L. Celli, M. Tesauro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A long-standing question in geodynamics is whether mantle flow is driven by the plate motion alone, or mantle upwelling makes a significant contribution to it. Subducting slabs and lateral variations of the continental lithosphere can further influence the asthenospheric flow and control its direction. The Middle East region (MER) is a complex continental setting where different processes such as rifting, break-up, plate collision, and tectonic escape kinematically interact with each other. In this context, the role that lithospheric structure, mantle flow, and active upwellings may play is debated. Tomographic images provide a snapshot of the current thermal conditions of a region and seismic anisotropy can also help resolve mantle convection. Here, we synthesize shear-wave splitting observations together with up-to-date tomography models of the mantle structure beneath the MER and other geophysical data. Low-velocity anomalies are seen at asthenospheric depths beneath W Arabia, NW Iran, and Anatolia, suggesting a spreading zone of warm mantle. Two deep low-velocity bodies in Afar and Levant –interpreted as hot mantle plumes– are the sources of this shallower mantle flow. Where low velocities are imaged, we observe predominantly NE–SW oriented anisotropy, anomalously high topography, and abundant basaltic volcanism. The integrated analysis suggests that a horizontal component associated with active upwelling is present in the upper-mantle flow field. The large-scale circulation flow fed by the Afar and Levant Plumes, aided by the subduction-induced forces, facilitates the lateral motion of the Anatolian microplate and affects the dynamic evolution of the Zagros orogen. The proposed scenario demonstrates that the interplay between plate-tectonic events and mantle dynamics controls the kinematics of the region and can explain the general patterns of deformation observed at the surface.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102005
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Mantle flow
  • Azimuthal anisotropy
  • Seismic
  • Tomography
  • Lithospheric thickness
  • Mantle plumes
  • Upwelling-induced traction


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