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Passive Rifting of Thick Lithosphere in the Southern East African Rift: Evidence from Mantle Transition Zone Discontinuity Topography
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
  • Cory A. Reed
  • Kelly H. Liu, Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Patrick R. N. Chindandali
  • Belarmino Massingue
  • Hassan Mdala
  • Daniel Mutamina
  • Youqiang Yu
  • Stephen S. Gao, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Abstract

To investigate the mechanisms for the initiation and early-stage evolution of the nonvolcanic southernmost segments of the East African Rift System (EARS), we installed and operated 35 broadband seismic stations across the Malawi and Luangwa rift zones over a 2 year period from mid-2012 to mid-2014. Stacking of over 1900 high-quality receiver functions provides the first regional-scale image of the 410 and 660 km seismic discontinuities bounding the mantle transition zone (MTZ) within the vicinity of the rift zones. When a 1-D standard Earth model is used for time-depth conversion, a normal MTZ thickness of 250 km is found beneath most of the study area. In addition, the apparent depths of both discontinuities are shallower than normal with a maximum apparent uplift of 20 km, suggesting widespread upper mantle high-velocity anomalies. These findings suggest that it is unlikely for a low-velocity province to reside within the upper mantle or MTZ beneath the nonvolcanic southern EARS. They also support the existence of relatively thick and strong lithosphere corresponding to the widest section of the Malawi rift zone, an observation that is consistent with strain localization models and fault polarity and geometry observations. We postulate that the Malawi rift is driven primarily by passive extension within the lithosphere attributed to the divergent rotation of the Rovuma microplate relative to the Nubian plate, and that contributions of thermal upwelling from the lower mantle are insignificant in the initiation and early-stage development of rift zones in southern Africa.

Department(s)
Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering
Research Center/Lab(s)
Center for High Performance Computing Research
Keywords and Phrases
  • East African Rift,
  • Malawi Rift,
  • Mantle Transitionn Zone,
  • Receiver Function
Document Type
Article - Journal
Document Version
Final Version
File Type
text
Language(s)
English
Rights
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, All rights reserved.
Publication Date
11-1-2016
Geolocate this work
(-8.783195, 34.50852299999997)
Citation Information
Cory A. Reed, Kelly H. Liu, Patrick R. N. Chindandali, Belarmino Massingue, et al.. "Passive Rifting of Thick Lithosphere in the Southern East African Rift: Evidence from Mantle Transition Zone Discontinuity Topography" Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth Vol. 121 Iss. 11 (2016) p. 8068 - 8079 ISSN: 2169-9313
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kelly-liu/56/