Thin lithosphere beneath the Ethiopian Plateau revealed by a joint inversion of Rayleigh wave group velocities and receiver functions

Mulugeta T. Dugda, Andrew A. Nyblade, Jordi Julia

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The seismic velocity structure of the crust and upper mantle beneath Ethiopia and Djibouti has been investigated by jointly inverting receiver functions and Rayleigh wave group velocities to obtain new constraints on the thermal structure of the lithosphere. Most of the data for this study come from the Ethiopia broadband seismic experiment, conducted between 2000 and 2002. Shear velocity models obtained from the joint inversion show crustal structure that is similar to previously published models, with crustal thicknesses of 35 to 44 km beneath the Ethiopian Plateau, and 25 to 35 km beneath the Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) and the Afar. The lithospheric mantle beneath the Ethiopian Plateau has a maximum shear wave velocity of about 4.3 km/s and extends to a depth of ∼70-80 km. Beneath the MER and Afar, the lithospheric mantle has a maximum shear wave velocity of 4.1-4.2 km/s and extends to a depth of at most 50 km. In comparison to the lithosphere away from the East African Rift System in Tanzania, where the lid extends to depths of ∼100-125 km and has a maximum shear velocity of 4.6 km/s, the mantle lithosphere under the Ethiopian Plateau appears to have been thinned by ∼30-50 km and the maximum shear wave velocity reduced by ∼0.3 km/s. Results from a 1D conductive thermal model suggest that the shear velocity structure of the Ethiopian Plateau lithosphere can be explained by a plume model, if a plume rapidly thinned the lithosphere by ∼30-50 km at the time of the flood basalt volcanism (c. 30 Ma), and if warm plume material has remained beneath the lithosphere since then. About 45-65% of the 1-1.5 km of plateau uplift in Ethiopia can be attributed to the thermally perturbed lithospheric structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberB08305
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 4 2007


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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