Crustal structure of the northern Main Ethiopian Rift from the EAGLE controlled-source survey; a snapshot of incipient lithospheric break-up

P. K.H. Maguire*, G. R. Keller, S. L. Klemperer, G. D. Mackenzie, K. Keranen, S. Harder, B. O'Reilly, H. Thybo, L. Asfaw, M. A. Khan, M. Amha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


The Ethiopia Afar Geoscientific Lithospheric Experiment (EAGLE) was undertaken to provide a snapshot of lithospheric break-up above a mantle upwelling at the transition between continental and oceanic rifting. The focus of the project was the northern Main Ethiopian Rift (NMER) cutting across the uplifted Ethiopian plateau comprising the Eocene-Oligocene Afar flood basalt province. A major component of EAGLE was a controlled-source seismic survey involving one rift-axial and one cross-rift c. 400 km profile, and a c. 100 km diameter 2D array to provide a 3D subsurface image beneath the profiles' intersection. The resulting seismic data are interpreted in terms of a crustal and sub-Moho P-wave seismic velocity model. We identify four main results: (1) the velocity within the mid- and upper crust varies from 6.1 km s-1beneath the rift flanks to 6.6 km s-1beneath overlying Quaternary axial magmatic segments, interpreted in terms of the presence of cooled gabbroic bodies arranged en echelon along the axis of the rift; (2) the existence of a high-velocity body (Vp7.4 km s-1) in the lower crust beneath the northwestern rift flank, interpreted in terms of about 15 km-thick, mafic under-plated/intruded layer at the base of the crust (we suggest this was emplaced during the eruption of Oligocene flood basalts and modified by more recent mafic melt during rifting); (3) the variation in crustal thickness along the NMER axis from c. 40 km in the SW to c. 26 km in the NE beneath Afar. This variation is interpreted in terms of the transition from near-continental rifting in the south to a crust in the north that could be almost entirely composed of mantle-derived mafic melt; and (4) the presence of a possibly continuous mantle reflector at a depth of about 15-25 km below the base of the crust beneath both linear profiles. We suggest this results from a compositional or structural boundary, its depth apparently correlated with the amount of extension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-292
Number of pages24
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


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