Located at the southernmost sector of the Western Branch of the East African Rift System, the Malawi Rift exemplifies an active, magma-poor, weakly extended continental rift. To investigate the controls on rifting, we image crustal and uppermost mantle structure beneath the region using ambient-noise and teleseismic Rayleigh-wave phase velocities between 9 and 100 s period. Our study includes six lake-bottom seismometers located in Lake Malawi (Nyasa), the first time seismometers have been deployed in any of the African rift lakes. Noise levels in the lake are lower than that of shallow oceanic environments and allow successful application of compliance corrections and instrument orientation determination. Resulting phase-velocity maps reveal slow velocities primarily confined to Lake Malawi at short periods (T ≤= 12 s), indicating thick sediments in the border-fault bounded rift basin. The slowest velocities occur within the Central Basin where Malawi Rift sedimentary strata may overlie older (Permo-Triassic) Karoo group sediments. At longer periods (T > 25 s), a prominent low-velocity anomaly exists beneath the Rungwe Volcanic Province at the northern terminus of the rift basin. Estimates of phase-velocity sensitivity indicates these low velocities occur within the lithospheric mantle and potentially uppermost asthenosphere, suggesting that mantle processes may control the association of volcanic centres and the localization of magmatism. Beneath the main portion of the Malawi Rift, a modest reduction in velocity is also observed at periods sensitive to the crust and upper mantle, but these velocities are much higher than those observed beneath Rungwe.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology