Radial Anisotropy beneath the Main Ethiopian Rift and Afar Depression

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Natalie J Accardo1, James B Gaherty2, Ge Jin3 and Donna J Shillington2, (1)Columbia University, New York, NY, United States, (2)Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States, (3)LDEO, Columbia Univ., Palisades, NY, United States
The Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) and Afar uniquely capture the final stages of transition from continental rifting in the broader East African Rift System to incipient seafloor spreading above a mantle hotspot. Studies of the region increasingly point to magmatism as a controlling factor on continental extension. However, the character and depth extent of these melt products remain contentious. Radial anisotropy derived from surface waves provides a unique diagnostic constraint on the presence of oriented melt pockets versus broader oriented anisotropic fabrics. This study investigates the thermal and radially anisotropic structure beneath the broader MER and Afar to resolve the magmatic character of the region and ultimately to understand the role of magmatism in present day rift development. We utilize 104 stations from 4 collocated arrays in the MER/Afar region to constrain radial anisotropy within the upper mantle via the inversion of Love- and Rayleigh-wave observations between 25 and 100 s period. We employ a multi-channel cross-correlation algorithm to obtain inter-station phase and amplitude information. The multi-channel phase observations are inverted for dynamic phase velocity across the array, which are then corrected for focusing and multipathing using the amplitude observations via Helmholtz tomography. We jointly invert Love- and Rayleigh-wave structural phase velocity measurements employing crustal constraints from co-located active source experiments to obtain estimates of Vsv and Vsh between 50 - 170 km depth. Preliminary results readily reveal the distinct shear velocity structure beneath the MER and Afar. Within the MER, shear velocity structure suggests pronounced low velocities accompanied by strong anisotropy between 80 – 140 km depth beneath the western Ethiopian plateau and rift valley. Within Afar, shear velocity structure is more varied with the slowest velocities found at shallow depths (less than 70 km depth), accompanied by weak anisotropy. The pronounced changes in the depth extent of slow velocities and strength of anisotropy interpreted to be associated with asthenosphere may reflect variations in the distribution and magnitude of temperature anomalies/melt between continental rifting in the MER and incipient, hot-spot influenced seafloor spreading in Afar.