Structural Influence on the Evolution of the Pre-Eonile Drainage System of Southern Egypt: Insights from Magnetotelluric and Gravity Data


The Wadi Kubbaniya in the Western Desert of Egypt north of the City of Aswan has been interpreted as the downstream continuation of the Wadi Abu Subeira, comprising an ancient W- and NW-flowing river system originating from the Precambrian crystalline rocks of the Red Sea Hills which were uplifted during the Miocene in association with the opening of the Red Sea. This drainage system is thought to have been active before the onset of the N-flowing Egyptian Nile which started ~6 Ma with the Eonile phase; an event that resulted in carving of ~1000 km long canyon (the Eonile canyon) extending from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to Aswan in the south due to the Messinian Salinity Crisis. This study utilizes geophysical data to examine the role of regional tectonics and local structures in controlling the evolution of the pre-Eonile drainage system. Magnetotelluric (MT) and gravity surveys were conducted along two ~5 km-long profiles across the NW-trending Wadi Kubbaniya. Two-dimensional (2D) inversion of MT data and gravity models indicate the Wadi Kubbaniya is filled with loosely-consolidated sandstone and conglomerate that extend to a depth of ~150-200 m into Cretaceous sandstone formations which overlie Precambrian crystalline rocks. These results were evaluated in terms of two end-member models; an incision model in which the 150-200 m thick sedimentary rocks were considered as being deposited within an incised valley that was carved into bedrock, or a structural model in which the sedimentary rocks are considered as filling a NW-trending graben controlled by normal faults that deform the Cretaceous sandstone formations and the underlying Precambrian crystalline rocks. Geological observations as well as supporting seismic data favor the interpretation that the Wadi Kubbaniya is a NW-trending graben similar to other extensional structures found 400 km northwest along-strike of Wadi Kubbaniya. These structures are impressively parallel to the western shorelines of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez suggesting a regional tectonic link between them. Strain localization of these grabens (which are likely Miocene in age) might have been facilitated by inherited Precambrian and Jurassic - Early Cretaceous structures, such as the NW-trending Najd fault system, the most dominant regional structural grain in the Red Sea Hills of Egypt as well as the NW-trending grabens, such as the Kom Ombo graben located ~25 km to the northeast of Wadi Kubbaniya.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

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Article - Journal

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© 2011 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2011