Morphotectonics of the Padul-Nigüelas Fault Zone, southern Spain

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Jochen Hürtgen
Andreas Rudersdorf
Christoph Grützner
Klaus Reicherter


The Padul-Nigüelas Fault Zone (PNFZ) is situated at the south-western mountain front of the Sierra Nevada (southern Spain) in the Internal Zone of the Betic Cordilleras and belongs to a NW-SE trending system of normal faults dipping SW. The PNFZ constitutes a major tectonic and lithological boundary in the Betics, and separates the metamorphic units of the Alpujárride Complex from Upper Tertiary to Quaternary deposits. Due to recent seismicity and several morphological and geological indicators, such as preserved fault scarps, triangular facets, deeply incised valleys and faults in the colluvial wedges, the PNFZ is suspected to be a tectonically active feature of the south-eastern Granada Basin. We performed morphotectonic GIS analyses based on digital elevation models (DEM, cell size: 10 m) to obtain tectonic activity classes for each outcropping segment of the PNFZ. We have determined the following geomorphic indices: mountain front sinuosity, stream-length gradient index, concavity index and valley floor width to height ratio. The results show a differentiation in the states of activity along the fault zone strike. The western and eastern segments of the PNFZ indicate a higher tectonic activity compared to the center of the fault zone. We discuss and critically examine the comparability and reproducibility of geomorphic analyses, concluding that careful interpretation is necessary, if no ground-truthing can be performed.

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Hürtgen, J., Rudersdorf, A., Grützner, C. and Reicherter, K. (2014) “Morphotectonics of the Padul-Nigüelas Fault Zone, southern Spain”, Annals of Geophysics, 56(6). doi: 10.4401/ag-6208.

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