The P and S wave velocity structure of the mantle beneath eastern Africa and the African superplume anomaly

Gabriel D. Mulibo, Andrew A. Nyblade

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P and S relative arrival time residuals from teleseismic earthquakes recorded on over 60 temporary AfricaArray broadband seismic stations deployed in Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia between 2007 and 2011 have been inverted, together with relative arrival time residuals from earthquakes recorded by previous deployments, for a tomographic image of mantle wave speed variations extending to a depth of 1200 km beneath eastern Africa. The image shows a low-wave speed anomaly (LWA) well developed at shallow depths (100-200 km) beneath the Eastern and Western branches of the Cenozoic East African rift system and northwestern Zambia, and a fast wave speed anomaly at depths ≤ 350 km beneath the central and northern parts of the East African Plateau and the eastern and central parts of Zambia. At depths ≥350 km the LWA is most prominent under the central and southern parts of the East African Plateau and dips to the southwest beneath northern Zambia, extending to a depth of at least 900 km. The amplitude of the LWA is consistent with a ∼150-300 K thermal perturbation, and its depth extent indicates that the African superplume, originally identified as a lower mantle anomaly, is likely a whole mantle structure. A superplume extending from the core-mantle boundary to the surface implies an origin for the Cenozoic extension, volcanism, and plateau uplift in eastern Africa rooted in the dynamics of the lower mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2696-2715
Number of pages20
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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