The Afar Depression is an ideal locale for the investigation of crustal processes involved in the transition from continental rifting to oceanic spreading. To provide relatively high resolution images of the crust beneath the Red Sea rift (RSR) represented by the Tendaho graben in the Afar Depression, we deployed an array of 18 broadband seismic stations in 2010 and 2011. Stacking of about 2300 receiver functions from the 18 and several nearby stations along the ~200 km long array reveals an average crustal thickness of 22 ± 4 km, ranging from ~17 km near the RSR axis to 30 km within the overlap zone between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden rifts. The resulting anomalously high Vp/Vs ratios decrease from 2.40 in the southwest to 1.85 within the overlap zone. We utilize theoretical Vp and melt fraction relationships to obtain an overall highly reduced average crustal Vp of ~5.1 km/s. The melt percentage is about 10% beneath the RSR while the overlap zone contains minor quantities of partial melt. The observed high Vp/Vs values beneath most of the study area indicate widespread partial melting beneath the southwest half of the profile, probably as a result of gradual eastward migration of the RSR axis. Our results also suggest that the current extensional strain in the lower crust beneath the region is diffuse, while the strain field in the upper crust is localized along narrow volcanic segments. These disparate styles of deformation imply a high degree of decoupling between the upper and lower crust.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for High Performance Computing Research

Keywords and Phrases

Continental Collision; Continental Margin; Crustal Structure; Crustal Thickness; Partial Melting; Rifting; Seafloor Spreading; Seismic Velocity; Spatial Resolution; Stacking; Afar; Arabian Sea; Ethiopia; Gulf of Aden; Indian Ocean; Red Sea [Indian Ocean]; Tendaho Graben

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2014