Dylan Vasey on “Formation of the Greater Caucasus Mountains”

Formation of the Greater Caucasus Mountains by Ocean Closure and Collision of the Arabian/Eurasian Tectonic Plates

By Dylan Vasey, University of California, Davis and ARISC Fellow

Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 7:00-8:30PM Tbilisi Time, 8:00AM PDT    

An ongoing continental collision between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates over the last ~35 million years has deformed the Earth’s crust and created the major mountain ranges of Anatolia, the Caucasus region, and Iran. The Greater Caucasus Mountains lie on the northernmost edge of this Arabia-Eurasia collision zone, ~500 km away from the geologic boundary between Arabia and Eurasia, yet these mountains contain some of the highest topography in the collision zone and are continuing to grow rapidly from continued collision. The concentration of mountain-building processes within the Greater Caucasus is due to the former presence of a small ocean basin (the Caucasus Basin), similar in size to the Black and Caspian seas, that once separated the present-day Greater and Lesser Caucasus and has since closed during Arabia-Eurasia collision. However, the location of the suture, or the boundary marking the juxtaposition of the northern and southern edges of this former ocean basin, is unknown, impeding understanding of how the structure of the ocean basin influenced the evolution of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. This talk provides an overview of the plate tectonic processes that have formed the Greater Caucasus Mountains and shows how geologists are using the rocks in the mountain range today to unravel the location and structure of the ancient Caucasus Basin.

Dylan Vasey is a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the creation, deformation, and destruction of the Earth’s crust and mantle due to plate tectonic processes. He is particularly interested in the role that the closure of small ocean basins play in the formation of mountain ranges and uses techniques including geologic field mapping, microscopic and chemical analysis of rocks, and computer modeling to better understand this process. Funding for this fellowship is provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) through a grant to the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

This talk is organized as a part of ARISC Online Event Series that showcase the work of ARISC fellows. ARISC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, medical condition, ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran.