| Post date: 2020/10/24 | 
During excursion, the Caspian Lowlands, the Iranian Loess Plateau, the Alborz Mountains and the northernmost part of the Central Plateau will be visited
(Figure 1).

Figure 1: Google earth view of the excursion sites

Excursion 1: Caspian lowlands and Iranian Loess Plateau
In Northern Iran, extensive loess deposits resembling “typical glacial loess” occur on the northern footslopes of Alborz Mountains between the cities of Sari and Minoodasht and in the so called Iranian Loess Plateau (Figure 2) northeast of Gonbad-e Kavoos (Lateef 1988, Kehl et al. 2005, Frechen et al. 2009, Vlaminck et al. 2016). During the last years, several loess-soil sequences located on the northern foothills of Alborz Mountains and within the ILP have been studied. Unweathered (primary) loesses in Northern Iran show a typical loess texture, dominated by high silt contents of up to 88 % and a median grain size ranging from 8 at the section at Neka to 34 μm in Agh Band . In the studied sections (Now Deh and Neka) in ILP luminescence age study of the upper most loess layers age back to 60 ka, suggesting that the uppermost loess layers accumulated during the last glacial (Kehl et al. 2005 and Frechen et al. 2009). The palaeosol horizons age are related to the last interglacial and the parental loess to OIS 6 (Frechen et al. 2009). In the City of Gorgan and its surroundings, several former brickery pits and road cuts expose loess deposits, more than 30 m thick, which cover the northern foothills of Alborz Mountains to the west and east of the city. Sadabad section in Gorgan will provide an access to these loess deposits and intercalated palaeosols.
Beside thick loess-palaeosol sequences several isolated linear dunes and barchans are developed between the south of Atrak River and the north of Gorgan River, on the flat lowland which spread between the Caspian Sea (West), Kopet Dagh and Alborz Mountains (East and South) and Karakum desert (North). The dunes strike WNW-ESE and attain maximum heights of 15 m to 30 m above the surface of the plain (Kehl et al. 2017). Sand dunes especially in eastern Caspian lowlands, Incheh-broun, provide valuable information in terms of palaeoclimate conditions and Caspian Sea level changes. Sand dunes accumulation in the area is happened 10.6 to 8.4 ka. Mostly of those are parabolic type and reflecting arid to semi-arid palaeoenvironmental conditions with sparse vegetation and predominance of easterly winds at the time of dune formation. The spatial and temporal distribution pattern of the studied dunes reflects a quick regression of the Caspian Sea during the Early Holocene, probably following the so-called Mangyshlak regression (Rahmizadeh et al. 2019)
There are 23 mud volcanos in Golestan province, among them Gharenyaregh, Neftlijeh, Sofikam and Inche mud volcanoes in Gorgan Plain (SE Caspian Basin) are active and erupting mud and gas. Gharenyaregh mud volcano (GMV), with the largest crater (500 m), has been generated from the Kopeh Dagh part of the deeper Gorgan Plain (Omrani and Raghimi 2018).

Figure 2: Satellite view of Iranian loess plateau, sand dunes, Mudvolcano and studied loess sections in Golestan province

Excursion 2: Alborz Mountains and Central Plateau
During the excursion  Badab-e Surt colorful spring in Sari, Cheshmeh Ali spring as a part of Damghan fault (length 100 km) close to Teppe Hesar site (4000 BC) and Haj Aligoli desert (Figure 3) combination of Sand dunes, Nebkha deposits and salt playa, will be visited.

Figure 3: Satellite view of Haj Aligholo Playa, Cheshmeh Ali and Badab-e surt springs

Badab-e Surt spring
Badab-e Surt spring (BSs) lying at about 1,841 m asl in Alborz Mountain ranges is located in Northern Iran (Mazandaran province), 100km of Southern Sari city and east of Orost village, it is recognized as a World Heritage Site.  A few other places in the world resemble it, including the Pamukkale in Denizli in southwestern Turkey, Mammoth Hot Springs in the USA, and Huanglong in Sichuan Province of China (Sotohian and Ranjbaran 2015). Geologically the spring comes from Shemshak Formation a thick sequence of siliciclastic sediments and coal-bearing deposits.
BSs (Figure 4) is including two springs, one with the saline and the other spring water has a sour taste and orange color. They formed during Pleistocene and Pliocene, by the time the discharged cool bicarbonate-rich waters  from these springs has resulted in the formation of red, orange and yellow travertine terraces with crystalline crust, pisoid, tufa, and carbonate black muds lithofacies (Sotohian and Ranjbaran 2015).

Figure 4. Badab-e Surt Spring
Haj Aligoli desert
Haj Aligoli /Chah-e-jam/Damgan desert is located at about 1050-1094 m asl in the southern Alborz Mountains close to dry plains of Iran central plateau and southeast of Damgan city (Semnan province). The desert area is 2391 sq.km; average temperature during summer season (JJ) is 48 ⁰C and -5 ⁰C in winter (JF) (Vahdati Nasab and Hashemi 2016). Damgan desert is a sedimentary-structural phenomenon (Ahmadi 1999). Due to poor vegetation, negative effective precipitation and wind activity desert landforms Nebkah, Barkhan, Seif and Sand dunes are dominant in the area (Vali and Musavi 2010).
Based on sedimentology Damgan desert can be divided into three parts. The first part, which comprises 47% of the desert, is the flat plate of clayey sediments, the second part is the wet or swampy area, which covers an area of about 34% of the surface of the desert and finally the remained central part is a salt desert (Figure 5) (Krinsley 1970).
Discovered Upper/Epipaleolithic periods settlement evidences in the area indicating that climate during the late Pleistocene was different from than present (Vahdati Nasab and Hashemi 2016).

Figure 5: Damgan Salt Playa

Cheshmeh Ali spring
The biggest karstic spring in Semnan province called Cheshme-Ali (CAs)(Figure 6) is located at 30 km of NW Damghan and is one of Damgan desert catchments. CAs water discharge is 500-700 l/s and which provides drinking water for part of Semnan city and 25 nearby villages. Average annual precipitation of the CAs watershed is 155 whereas the number for the evaporation is 1900 mm. Geologically CAs is a part of eastern Alborz zone which is combination of the thick Delichae and thin Lar calcareous formations (Hosseini  et al. 2018).

Figure 6: Cheshmeh Ali and the constructed palace

Krinsley, D.B., 1970. A Geomophological and Paleoclimatological Study of the Playas of Iran. of Iran. United States Air Force, Bedford MA, USA.
Karami, G.H., 2009. The effect of stratigraphy on developing karst in catchment area of Cheshme-Ali, Damghan. Iranian Journal of Stratigraphy and Sedimentology Reserches, 25(1):39-52.
Vali, A.A. and Musavi, S.H., 2012. Modeling for Estimation of Barchan Dunes Volume (Cease study: Barchans of Chah Jam Region). Iranian Journal of Arid Regions Geographics Studies, 2(6): 1-14.
Sotohian, F. and Ranjbaran, M., 2015. Depositional system and facies analysis of travertine deposits:
Badab-e Surt Spring Mazandaran, Iran. Arab J Geosci, 8: 4939–4947.
Vahdati Nasab, H. and Hashemi, M., 2016. Playas and Middle Paleolithic settlement of the Iranian Central Desert: The discovery of the Chah-e Jam Middle Paleolithic site. Quaternary International, 408: 140-152.
Hosseini, S.M., Ghadiri, H. and Garavand, F., 2018. Investigation of hydrological characteristics of Damghan Cheshmeh-Ali karst aquifer, Iranian Journal of Researches in Earth Sciences, 9(4): 128-145.
Rahimzadeh, N., Khormai, F., Gribenski, N., Tsukamotoa, S., Kehl, M. and Frechen, M., 2019. Timing and development of sand dunes in the Golestan Province, northern Iran—Implications for the Late-Pleistocene history of the Caspian Sea, Aeolian Research, 41: Article 100538.
Kehl, M., Sarvati, R., Ahmadi, H., Frechen, M. and Skowronek, A., 2005. Loess palaeosol-sequences along a climatic gradient in Northern Iran. Eiszeitalter u. Gegenwart, 55: 149-173.
Frechen, M., Kehl, M., Rolf, C., Sarvati, R., and Skowronek, A., 2009. Loess chronology of the Caspian Lowland in Northern Iran. Quaternary International 128, 220-233
Lateef, A.S.A., 1988. Distribution, provenance, age and paleoclimatic record of the loess in Central North Iran. In: Eden, D.N., Furkert, R.J. (Eds.), Loess – Its Distribution, Geology and Soils, Proceedings of an International Symposium on Loess, New Zealand, Balkema, Rotterdam, 14–21 February 1987, 93–101.
Omrani, H. and Raghim, M., 2018. Origin of the mud volcanoes in the south east Caspian Basin, Iran. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 96: 615-626.

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