Geography and Development

Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

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Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

Dr. Seyyed Naser Raisossadat

Assistant Professor of Geology

University of Birjand

Dr. Mohammad Hossein Zarrinkoub

Associate Professor of Geology

University of Birjand

Dr. Mohammad Mahdi Khatib

Associate Professor of Geology

University of Birjand


Sahl Abad playa is located at about 120 kilometers south of Birjand at Birjand-Nehbandan road in South Khorasan province. This playa is geographically located between 58o 40′ to 60o 10′ east longitude and 31o 50′ to 32o 15′ north latitude , the area of playa is about 1116 km2 (Figure 1).

The study area is located in dry and arid climatic conditions. Since there is no meteorology station in Sahl Abad playa, therefore based on the figures of the surrounding areas, it is possible to estimate the annual average of precipitation of all the area about 150 mm (Eshagian, 1990).

Formation of Sahl Abad salt flats has made a new ecology in the north east area of Nehbandan, in this area, extraction of salt storages and different kinds of industrial salts creates a suitable opportunity for sustained job opportunity in the deprived area of Sahl Abad. Therefore recognizing its geomorphology features and natural geography will be a great help for development planning of the area. It is hoped that this study leads to a better recognition of the said flat and be used in the studies for geographical investigations of the area, watershed management, flood control, exploring natural and mineral resources and other similar cases.

Sahl Abad playa is an active sedimentary basin in quaternary. Geomorphology and morpho-tectonic of this playa and the mechanism of its formation are the main goals of the present study.
Research Methodology

Methods include studying aerial in 1/55000 scales, satellite photos in 1/1000000 scales, field works and sampling from sediments and salts up to two meters depth.

Figure 1: position of Sahl Abad playa on satellite image that shows main faults and position of

topographical cross sections of Figure 6. (From Landsat 8).
Discussion and Results

First works were done by Krinsley (1970) and Samani (1973). However this is the first work on Sahl Abad playa. Many works have been done on playas around the world. Here some works that related to our work can be referred here such as Castaneda et al. (2005) on facies identification within the playa-lakes of the Monegros desert in Spain, Gutirrez-Elorza et al., (2005) on Origin and evolution of playas and blowouts in the semiarid zone of Tierra de Pinares, Duero Basin, Spain, Messina et al., (2005) on Macropolygon morphology, development, and classification on North Panamint and Eureka playas, Death Valley National Park CA and Mann et al., 1983 on the effects of structure geology on playas.

Quaternary sediments are important in formation of Sahl Abad playa. These sediments include recent alluviums, alluvial terraces, alluvial fans, sand dunes and salt plain. The study area is a folded, faulted and crushed zone that is formed in a convergent area. Faults are mostly trust and strike slip. Trends of folds and faults are mostly in north west- south east. The tensional stress with this trend has formed a Pull-apart basin (Figure 1). The most important faults are Shir Shotor, Sahl Abad and Esmaiel Abad (Figure 1).

Sahl Abad playa extended 1880 kilometers squares. Based on geological and topographical maps, aerial photos, field observation and Krinsely (1970), Samani (1973), Ahmadi (1988) and Torshizian (1994), two types and few faces have been identified.

1- Mud flats types: There are five facies including puffy and soft faces, plough surfaces (Figure 2), clay plain, Nebka and clay-slat polygons (Figure 4).

Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

2- Salt plain type: there are five faces including clay polygons, salt faces with clay –salt blossoms, salt polygons and black salt faces, salt polygons with salt blossoms (Figure 5) and salt faces (Figure 6).

There are three distinct parts from margin to center of playa.

1- Clay flat: this part is formed by clay, silt and a little salt. Margin of this part is frequently dry and show a puffy ground. This part is about 37.5% of the salt plain (Figure 7).

2- Wet zone: in this part moreover Sodium chloride, gypsum and other salts are present. This part has more salt than the previous part. The extension of this area changes during year and depend on precipitation. This part is about 18.6% of the salt plain.

3-Salt crust: this part has perfectly white colour because salt crust is thick here. This part has lowest elevation and therefore ground water surface is high in this part. Due to evaporation and capillary pressure salt coming up to surface and forms salt crust. This area is about 17.45% of the salt plain.

Figure 2: Plough surfaces in north west margin of Sahl Abad

Figure 4: Clay-salt polygons



Figure 5: Polygons with salt blossoms

Figure 6: Salt faces with a thick layer of salt that is formed in high evaporation of brackish waters


Figure 7: Sahl Abad Geomorphologic zones that is prepared with aerial photos
Structural elements in the study area shows Sahl Abad playa is surrounded by strike slip faults and activity of these faults has effected on formation of salt plain. Mann et al., 1983 believes that strike slip faults are seldom straight and will be bent or split. They probably are connected together or far away from each other. Such transform faults will lead to formation of ellipsoid or spherical basins.

Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

Strike slip basins have been discussed (Balance, 1980; Crowell, 1976; Mann & Burke, 1982; Burke et al., 1982).

Paull-apart term was introduced by Burchfiel and Stwewart (1960) for the first time and then applied for about 60 quaternary basins that are formed along strike slip faults (Aydin and Nur, 1982).

Enechelan faults normally produced a regional movement. This might lead to formation of extensional and compression zones. Where there is an extension, sedimentary basins are formed and where there is compression, high lands are formed and will be under erosion. These materials will fill the formed basins. Shape of these basins is related to faults patterns. Pull-apart term has been introduced for all strike slip basins.

Based on the above explanations, structural geology of study area, strike slip faults with thick terrigenous sediments in their margins, shape of basin and faulted margin, a Pull-apart basin is suggested for Sahl Abad playa (Figures 1 and 8).


Figure 8: A development model of Pull-apart basin formation
In addition to the above factors, river sinuosity increases with slope decrease that sinuosity changes could be related to tectonic activities. Therefore with increase of slope, channel morphology will change to distributed channels shape and this could confirm tectonic rising of the area.

Based on definition, channel sinuosity is channel length to down valley length (Adams et al., 1999.)

V= length of channel

C= straight length of channels along valley

For investigation of this morphometeric index in sahl Abad playa, 33 channels have been selected (Figure 9) and their sinousity have been calculated (Table 1). The results could be intrepreted as tectonic activity of the study area and uprising of the margins of Sahl Abad playa and depression in center.


Figure 9: channels position for sinuosity
Table 1: Calculated channel sinuosity in study area


Calculated sinuosity


Calculated sinuosity


Calculated sinuosity



























































Position of channels are platted in figure 13.









Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran


Two types of clay and salt plains have been identified in Sahl Abad playa. In Mud flats types, four faces including puffy and soft faces, plough surfaces clay plain, Nebka and clay-slat polygons and in Salt plain type five faces including clay polygons, salt faces with clay –salt blossoms, salt polygons and black salt faces, salt polygons with salt blossoms and salt faces have been recognized.

Based on structural setting, strike slip faults and thick clastic sediments beside the faults, shape of basin and faulted margins can probably suggest that Sahl Abad is a Pull-apart basin. Generation of this basin is interpreted due to strike slip fault actions (operation) that are branched from Nehbandan fault. However, it could be mentioned that this basin is in young stage and there is no volcanic action.

Based on Sahl Abad active fault and morpho-tectonic interpretation it is suggested that the basin is in extension state. Calculation of channel sinuosity also confirmed an active tectonic in the area and it is expected that Sahl Abad plain is going to be bigger.

Further studies on Sahl Abad area are suggested and it is hoped that the result of this study could be used in natural geography, water management, flood control and mineral resources.
Acknowledgment: This research has been supported by the University of Birjand (Research affairs). We thank M. Bardeh (previous student of Geology Dept. of Birjand University) and Mr. E. Yazadan panah (PhD student of geology Dept. of Birjand University) for their help in field and lab works.

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  2. Ahmadi, H. 1988. Practical Geomorphology, Tehran University, 592 pp. [in Persain].

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  6. Aydin, A. and Nur, A (1982). Evolution of pull-apart basins and their scale independence, Tectonics, 1.

  7. Balance, P. F (1980). Models of sediment distribution in non-marine and shallow marine environments in oblique-slip zones. In: Sedimentation in oblique-slip mobile zones (Balance P. F. and Reading, H. G. Eds.), International Association Sedimentologists Special Publication, 4.

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  12. Bull, W.B., and McFadden, L.D (1977). Tectonic geomorphology north and south of the Garlock fault, California, In: Geomorphology in arid regions (Doehring, D.O., Ed.), Proceedings of the 8th Annual Geomorphology Symposium Binghamton, New York, State University of New York Publications in Geomorphology.

  13. Burke, K., Mann, P. and Kidd, W (1982).What is a ramp valley? Abstract of 11th International Congress Sedimentology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

  14. Castan˜eda. C., Herrero, J. and Casterad M. A. 2005. Facies identification within the playa-lakes of the Monegros desert, Spain, from field and satellite data. Catena, 63.

  15. Crawell, J.C. 1974. Origin of late Cenozoic basins in southern California. In: Modern and anceint geocynclinal sediemntation (Dott, R. H. and Shaver, R. H. Eds.), SEPM Special Publication 19.

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  17. Eftekharnezhad, J (1991). Structural separation of Iran in relation to sedimentary basins. Journal of Iranian Petroleum Society. 82, 19-27 [in Persian].

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  19. Gutie´rrez-Elorza M., Desir G., Gutie´rrez-Santolalla, F. And Marı´n, C (2005). Origin and evolution of playas and blowouts in the semiarid zone of Tierra de Pinares (Duero Basin(, Spain, Geomorphology, 72.

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Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

Messina, P., Stoffer, P. and Smith, W (2005). Macropolygon morphology, development, and classification on North Panamint and Eureka playas, Death Valley National Park CA. Earth-Science Reviews, 73.

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Geomorphology and Genesis of Sahl Abad Playa – East of Iran

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  2. Raisossadat, S. N., ZarrinKoub, M.H. and Bardeh, M(1994). Mineralogy of sediments of Sahl-Abad salt plain. Abstract with Proceeding 2nd Geological Symposium of Eastern Iran, 26-27, Birjand University [in Persian].

  3. Rezaee Moghadam, M.H. and Saghafi, M (2006). Analysis of Geomorphologic evolution of Kahak playa based on satellite images and phase logic, Southern Khorasan Province. Geography and Development, 43-60 [in Persian].

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Geography and Development

10nd Year - No. 28 - Autumn 2012

Received : 26/4/2011 Accepted : 18/7/2012

PP : 40 - 43
Recognition of Weather Types in Ardabil Synoptic Station and its Relationship

With Atmospheric Circulation Patterns

Shahram Razmjuei

M.Sc Student of Climatology

University of Mohaghegh Ardabili

Dr. Bromand Salahi

Assistant Professor of Natural Geography

University of Mohaghegh Ardabili


Determination of weather types as one of the goals of Synoptic climatology is identification of similar weathers variables. Hence, weather types in fact visualize air masses. In other words, a weather type is a different set of atmospheric characteristics which is different from other series. Today, identification of weather type based on climatic variables is one of the important tools for climatologists to understand about the weather and climactic problems & disasters due to atmospheric circulations. On the other hand, the weather types are associated with surface events and by identification of these, environmental phenomena such as floods, pollution, pests, etc, are predictable. Many of the processes concerned with environmental problems, are affected by atmospheric circulations. Since in synoptic studies, the relationship between changes in atmospheric circulation patterns and environmental phenomena and processes are reviewed, the results of these studies could lead to explain and predict phenomena and environmental conditions.

Research Methodology

In this paper, in order to determine and investigate the synoptic weather types in Ardabil synoptic station, 18 climatic variables such as wet and dry bulb temperature, relative humidity, direction & speed of wind (for 03, 09 & 15 GMT) mean of rainfall, maximum and minimum of temperature belong to Ardebil synoptic station in years 1978 – 2005 have been used. 9918 days has had complete data of the above variables. First, a P Matrix (9918×18) created and then the data standardize process has been performed. On this Matrix, by using cluster analysis, weather types of this station have recognized. based on correlations, 6 days selected as representative days of 6 synoptic types in Ardabil synoptic station. So, in these representative days, climatic characteristics of sea level pressure and 500 hecto-pascal geopotential height maps were investigated.

 Discussion and Results

In this study, using the climatic data of years 1978-2005 of Ardabil synoptic station and performing the cluster analysis by Ward method on standardized data, six weather types were identified. Including: 1) Warm and dry , windy 2) Very warm with low rainfall 3) Very cool & rainy 4) Cool and dry, windy 5) Moderate 6) Warm & wet. At first, these types were located in 2 clusters (warm and cool). Types 1, 2 and 6 belong to the warm cluster and types 3, 4 and 5 belong to the cold cluster. It seems that the obtained weather types for this station almost represent spatial and temporal climatic conditions of this station. The results showed that type 1 is the most discordant type. Types 3 and 2, respectively, have the highest and lowest rainfall. The coldest and warmest types of the station are types 3 and 2. Type No. 6 has the best representation day with a 95 percent correlation with the other day and it had the longest duration among other types. Types 1 and 4 are the windiest types respectively. Type 6 (which belongs to the warm season), has the most and type No 1 has the lowest frequency of occurrence of weather types. In winter, the Siberian high pressure in north of Iran and the unstable mid-latitude out of tropical flow causes the influx of high-latitude cold weathers on the northwest of Iran. Consequently, the cold weather types in winter influenced more by controller planetary factors of station than local factors. In other seasons of the year, the effective air mass enters in to the region mainly from the northern regions and affects on its climate. In total, in this station, the frequency of warm types is more than cold ones (53.8 vs. 46.2 percent). Among the studied types, types 1 and 5 have more moderate climatic conditions than types 2 and 6 (warm types) and types 3 and 4 (cold types). Investigation of 500 hpa level and sea level patterns of representative days of weather types, showed the Influx of cold air of upper latitudes by Siberian & European high pressures and low pressure of Iceland on station and existance of high pressure closed center of Azores on center of Iran. In general, study of ground level and 500 hpa atmospheric circulation patterns, justified cold types (types 3, 4 and 5) more than warm types (types 1, 2 and 6). Although in warm types, especially types 2 and 6, the arrangement of atmospheric circulation patterns play a decisive role in the occurrence of these weather types, Since weather types of each area are related with the occurrence of environmental phenomena, therefore the discovery and analysis of this relationship can take important steps in preventing and dealing with these phenomena.

Recognition of Weather Types in Ardabil Synoptic …

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