Images of the East Africa Rift System from the Joint Inversion of Body Waves, Surface Waves, and Gravity: Investigating the Role of Magma in Early-Stage Continental Rifting
Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
With several rift segments at different stages of the rifting cycle, and the last orogenic episode more than 500 Mya, the young (<7 My) Eastern rift system in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya offers an ideal venue to study the role of magma and other fluids in continental rifting. To estimate both the location and volume of magma beneath the rift system, we generated 3D elastic wave images of the crust and uppermost mantle of this region by analyzing data recorded by a local deployment of 40 broad band seismic stations over a period of two years. We jointly inverted P and S wave arrival times from locally recorded earthquakes with Rayleigh wave dispersion curves derived from cross correlating ambient noise. These results were combined with Bouguer gravity anomalies to increase resolution and add constraints. The ambient noise signal appears to be channeled along the axis of the rift system, suggesting a waveguide effect. Tests with synthetic data estimate a spatial resolution in our images on the order of a few km. Our results demonstrate fundamental modifications of continental crustal structure by magmatic processes during the first few My of rift basin development. To first order, our models are dominated by regions of exceptionally low (by 10-20%) shear wavespeed relative to that of average continental crust. To a large extent the wavespeeds mimic the topography, with the slowest shear wave speeds corresponding to the lowest elevations, and tracing out a NE-SW striking region about 20 km wide from the Natron basin in the north to a NW-SE region of similar width beneath the Manyara basin in the south. These low wavespeeds are likely to be a consequence of the presence of magma and other fluids from at least 30 km depth, the limit of depth resolution for this dataset and near the base of the crust (~35 km), and extending to upper crustal levels in some areas. Somewhat surprisingly, a second region of significant low wavespeed beneath the Ngorongoro caldera appears to be physically cut off from the magma beneath the main part of the rift zone by a relatively thin (< 10 km) wide zone of higher shear wave speeds that lies along the western edge of the fault-bounded rift. The narrow ridge of higher velocity lower crustal material may be a consequence of flexural uplift of the rift flank in response to stretching of strong, cratonic lithosphere.