Shear wave splitting is a robust tool to infer the direction and strength of seismic anisotropy in the lithosphere and underlying asthenosphere. Previous shear wave splitting studies in the Afar Depression and adjacent areas concluded that either Precambrian sutures or vertical magmatic dikes are mostly responsible for the observed anisotropy. Here we report results of a systematic analysis of teleseismic shear wave splitting using all the available broadband seismic data recorded in the Afar Depression, Main Ethiopian Rift (MER), and Ethiopian Plateau. We found that while the ~450 measurements on the Ethiopian Plateau and in the MER show insignificant azimuthal variations with MER-parallel fast directions and thus can be explained by a single layer of anisotropy, the ~150 measurements in the Afar Depression reveal a systematic azimuthal dependence of splitting parameters with a π/2 periodicity, suggesting a two-layer model of anisotropy. The top layer is characterized by a relatively small (0.65 s) splitting delay time and a WNW fast direction that can be attributed to magmatic dikes within the lithosphere, and the lower layer has a larger (2.0 s) delay time and a NE fast direction. Using the spatial coherency of the splitting parameters obtained in the MER and on the Ethiopian Plateau, we estimated that the optimal depth of the source of anisotropy is centered at about 300 km, i.e., in the asthenosphere. The spatial and azimuthal variations of the observed anisotropy can best be explained by a NE directed flow in the asthenosphere beneath the MER and the Afar Depression.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

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Article - Journal

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© 2010 John Wiley & Sons, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2010

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Geology Commons