Earthquake Risk Assessment for Tehran, Iran
2. Region of Study
2.1. Tectonic Setting
2.2. Active Faulting
- North Tehran: The most prominent active tectonic structure in Tehran; E–W strike; north-dipping fault surface; length of 175 km with a predominant thrust mechanism along its 110–km western segment, and a predominant left-lateral strike–slip mechanism along its 65-km eastern segment; average slip rate of ~0.3 mm yr−1.
- Mosha: Located at 16–km distance to the north of Tehran; N100° E trending; north-dipping fault surface; a 220–km long, left-lateral oblique reverse fault with dips varying from 35° to 70°; average slip rate of ~0.2 mm yr−1.
- Kahrizak–South Rey–North Rey: A zone located south of Tehran, E–W trending, consisting of Kahrizak, South Rey, and North Rey faults with lengths of 35, 18.5, and 16.5 km, respectively.
- Parchin: Also known as the Eyvanekey fault; situated at the southeast of Tehran; 70 km long; NW–SE strike; has clear ruptures in Quaternary alluvial deposits.
- Pishva: Located southeast of Tehran; ~55 km long; NW-SE (N130° E) trending; reverse mechanism with a lateral component; northeast-dipping fault surface.
- Garmsar: Located southeast of Tehran, bifurcated from the southern section of the Pishva fault; 70-km long; E–W trending; reverse mechanism.
- Taleghan: Located northwest of Tehran; 80-km length; E–W trending; left-lateral strike–slip mechanism with a normal component (occurrence of a kinematical change along the fault from reverse to left-lateral + normal ~1 Ma); minimum horizontal and vertical slip rates of 0.6–1.6 mm yr−1 and ~0.5 mm yr−1, respectively.
- Pardisan: Located in central Tehran; ~12 km long; E-W trending; thrust mechanism; north dipping; minimum uplift and slip-rates of at least 1 mm yr−1.
2.4. Geological Structure
- Unit A: Also known as the ‘Hezardarreh’ formation, this unit is the oldest deposit in Tehran with a thickness of ~1200 m, forming a long anticline throughout the northeast-east of Tehran. Having a light gray in color and an almost vertical bedding (dip ~90°), this unit is mainly made of conglomerates with a well-developed lime carbonate cementation and is considered to be of the Pliocene–Pleistocene age.
- Unit B: This unit, also known as the ‘Kahrizak’ formation, unconformably overlies on the eroded surfaces of unit A. The thickness of unit B varies from 10 to 60 m, and its bedding is generally horizontal with a maximum dip of 15°. This deposit has a heterogeneous mechanical resistance and changeable porosity and its age is estimated to be ~700,000 years.
- Unit C: Since a considerable part of Tehran has been built on this unit, it is also called as the ‘Tehran’ formation, and includes conglomeratic young alluvial fan deposits. The maximum thickness of this formation is about 60 m, and its age is estimated to be ~50,000 years. Its bedding indicates an almost horizontal slope. Unit C has higher cementation than its underlying and overlying stratigraphic units (B and D formations, respectively).
- Unit D: Known as the ‘Recent’ alluvium, this unit is the youngest stratigraphic unit within the Tehran region and its formation dates back to the Holocene epoch (11,500 years). The thickness of this unit is less than 10 m and its color is gray to dark gray. This unit has an alluvial and fluvial origin, and it composes of poorly consolidated to unconsolidated cementation.
4.1. Surface PGA
4.2. Surface Rupture Width
8. Discussion and Conclusions
- Based on the hazard maps, northern and southern parts of Tehran are subjected to a high PGA of about 0.5 g on a bedrock level; however, regarding the local site response, the soft, thick soil layers in southern parts of Tehran have the potential of amplifying seismic waves up to twice of the calculated values on the rock. For example, this amount is estimated to be 0.7 g for the southwestern parts of Tehran.
- Experiences of previous earthquakes indicate that some specific phenomena related to near-field earthquakes may also result in large damages especially in urban areas. Such phenomena can occur in the form of surface fault rupture, large cracks, and directivity effects, fling step, fault scarps, etc. With respect to the fact that the northern and southern parts of Tehran embrace several active faults, these regions should be taken into account as high–potential areas for hosting the mentioned phenomena. Therefore, a surface rupture widths map was also prepared for the surrounding and inner-city faults of Tehran using the faults’ geometry. Results indicate that we should expect surface rupture widths of about 2–3, 1.5, and 1 km for the major, medium, and minor faults in Tehran, respectively.
- As mentioned in Section 2 and Section 3, Tehran currently lays on a seismic gap. Regarding that we have applied a time-independent hazard assessment in this study, the duration since the last event is not considered here, so this seismic gap observation in Tehran is not taken into account in our model. Therefore, a future perspective for this study would be an assessment of time-dependent hazard, which considers possible seismic gaps in order to calculate time-dependent conditional probabilities. This would be helpful to arrive at a better understanding of the potential hazard associated with this seismic gap in order to adopt appropriate strategies for earthquake risk reduction.
- The population density map (Figure 7) clearly indicates that, of 22 municipality districts of Tehran, eight districts are the most densely populated areas in Tehran. A comparison of this human exposure with the overall physical vulnerability map (Figure 8) reveals that, in some areas, the population is exactly focused at the highest vulnerable places, which should be considered as an urgent issue in future urban development efforts.
- According to the overall physical vulnerability map (Figure 8), 10 out of 22 districts in the megacity of Tehran including districts no. 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 20 show a higher vulnerability than other districts. These results are in a good general agreement with some previous studies on the vulnerability of urban fabrics and building loss models in Tehran [91,92,93].
- The overall risk map, which is depicted as a result of the combination of hazard, exposure and vulnerability maps, represents an estimate of risk distribution in Tehran. It generally indicates that the southern half of the city has a higher risk than the northern half. Yet the amount of risk should not be underestimated in other areas, especially the northwest parts (such as district no. 5 and 22) where are home to the North Tehran fault and also under rapid urban expansion and development. A comparison between our study with a previous physical-socioeconomic risk assessment study in Tehran  indicates that the previous study  ranks districts no. 15, 20, 12, 16, 18, and 11 of Tehran as the top regions in terms of physical risk, while our results suggest that districts no. 10, 17, 20, 16, 15, and 11 contain the highest risk. In general, the results show some similarities, and the discrepancies originate from the difference in input data and the adopted methodologies. For example, in the previous study , a scenario-based seismic hazard only corresponding to earthquake occurrence on the Ray fault in south Tehran is considered, while in this study, we have adopted a PSHA analysis considering all surrounding major faults, site response considerations, as well as rupture width zones. Consequently, the results of our study provide a useful basis not only for understanding earthquake risk in Tehran, but also for prioritizing seismic risk reduction measures and increasing resilience in this megacity.
Conflicts of Interest
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|Fault Zones||Fault Length (km)||Surface Rupture Length (Km)||Surface Rupture Width (km)|
|Major Faults||North Tehran||130||48.1||3.0|
|GIS Layers||Classes||Vulnerability Weight *|
|Land Use||Vegetation or open areas|
Low urban density
High urban density
|Building Height||<10 floors|
20 floors <
(for 10–storey < buildings)
Steel or Concrete
Semi-steel and masonry
|Construction Age |
(for 10–storey < buildings)
40 years <
|Vicinity to Critical Infrastructures|
(hospitals and medical centers, highways, and fire stations)
|Near (<1 km)|
Medium (1–2 km)
Far (2 km <)
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Kamranzad, F.; Memarian, H.; Zare, M. Earthquake Risk Assessment for Tehran, Iran. ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2020, 9, 430. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9070430
Kamranzad F, Memarian H, Zare M. Earthquake Risk Assessment for Tehran, Iran. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information. 2020; 9(7):430. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9070430Chicago/Turabian Style
Kamranzad, Farnaz, Hossein Memarian, and Mehdi Zare. 2020. "Earthquake Risk Assessment for Tehran, Iran" ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information 9, no. 7: 430. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi9070430