Geophysical Studies of Rift Structures and Dynamics

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Teleseismic travel time residuals measured on 600-1000 km seismic arrays across the Rio Grande and East African rifts provide evidence for upper mantle low velocity zones beneath each rift of velocity contrast 6%-8%. Refraction studies show thinning of the crust below the rift axes. Regional uplift which extends hundreds of km either side of the axes, is isostatically compensated by negative density contrast at depth. Since the refraction argues against compensation by thickened crust, compensation in the upper mantle low velocity zones is suggested. Temperature effects alone can not explain the reduced velocities. Generation of a few percent of partial melt is the most probable source of the reduction. A passive extensional mechanism is investigated for the Rio Grande rift in which hot asthenosphere intrudes the lithosphere raising its temperature and generating moderate melting. It requires less than 1% extension to explain the melting but a prodigious 26% to raise the temperature from a pre-rifting continental geotherm to the solidus. Geological estimates find that extension is less than 10% over the uplift zone. Such a mechanism is possible only if the prerifting lower lithosphere geotherm lies closer to the solidus than that of stable continent. This is supported by the observed high heat flow in the Rio Grande rift uplift region which, given the long time constant for thermal diffusion, reflects elevated temperatures at depth well in advance of the onset of rifting.
Full Article Download:
(522 kb)