Exploring Crustal Structure and Mantle Seismic Anisotropy Associated with the Incipient Southern and Southwestern Branches of the East African Rift System

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Youqiang Yu1, Cory A Reed1, Stephen S Gao1, Kelly Hong Liu1, Belarmino Massinque2, Hassan S. Mdala3, Patrick R.N. Chindandali3, Moikwathai Moidaki4 and Daniel M. Mutamina5, (1)Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO, United States, (2)Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Department of Geology, Maputo, Mozambique, (3)Geological Survey of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi, (4)university of botswana, gaborone, botswana, Botswana, (5)Zambia Geological Survey Department, Lusaka, Zambia
In spite of numerous geoscientific studies, the mechanisms responsible for the initiation and development of continental rifts are still poorly understood. The key information required to constrain various geodynamic models on rift initiation can be derived from the crust/mantle structure and anisotropy beneath incipient rifts such as the Southern and Southwestern branches of the East African Rift System. As part of a National Science Foundation funded interdisciplinary project, 50 PASSCAL broadband seismic stations were deployed across the Malawi, Luangwa, and Okavango rift zones from the summer of 2012 to the summer of 2014. Preliminary results from these 50 SAFARI (Seismic Arrays for African Rift Initiation) and adjacent stations are presented utilizing shear-wave splitting (SWS) and P-S receiver function techniques. 1109 pairs of high-quality SWS measurements, consisting of fast polarization orientations and splitting times, have been obtained from a total of 361 seismic events. The results demonstrate dominantly NE-SW fast orientations throughout Botswana as well as along the northwestern flank of the Luangwa rift valley. Meanwhile, fast orientations beneath the eastern Luangwa rift flank rotate from NNW to NNE along the western border of the Malawi rift. Stations located alongside the western Malawi rift border faults yield ENE fast orientations, with stations situated in Mozambique exhibiting more E-W orientations. In the northern extent of the study region, fast orientations parallel the trend of the Rukwa and Usangu rift basins. Receiver function results reveal that, relative to the adjacent Pan-African mobile belts, the Luangwa rift zone has a thin (30 to 35 km) crust. The crustal thickness within the Okavango rift basin is highly variable. Preliminary findings indicate a northeastward thinning along the southeast Okavango border fault system congruent with decreasing extension toward the southwest. The Vp/Vs measurements in the Okavango basin are roughly 1.75 on average, suggesting an unmodified crustal composition, while those of the Luangwa and southern Malawi rift zones are relatively high, probably suggesting ancient or ongoing magmatic emplacement. The Pan-African mobile belts enveloping the rift zones are mostly characterized by more felsic and thicker crust.