Crustal velocity structure across the Main Ethiopian Rift: Results from two-dimensional wide-angle seismic modelling

G. D. Mackenzie*, H. Thybo, P. K.H. Maguire

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


We present the results of velocity modelling of a recently acquired wide-angle seismic reflection/refraction profile across the Main Ethiopian Rift. The models show a continental type of crust with significant asymmetry between the two sides of the rift. A 2- to 5-km-thick layer of sedimentary and volcanic sequences is modelled across the entire region. This is underlain by a 40- to 45-km-thick crust with a c. 15-km-thick high-velocity lowest crustal layer beneath the western plateau. This layer is absent from the eastern side, where the crust is 35 km thick beneath the sediments. We interpret this layer as underplated material associated with the Oligocene flood basalts of the region with possible subsequent addition by recent magmatic events. Slight crustal thinning is observed beneath the rift, where Pn velocities indicate the presence of hot mantle rocks containing partial melt. Beneath the rift axis, the velocities of the upper crustal layers are 5-10 per cent higher than outside the rift, which we interpret as resulting from mafic intrusions that can be associated with magmatic centres observed in the rift valley. Variations in seismic reflectivity suggest the presence of layering in the lower crust beneath the rift, possibly indicating the presence of sills, as well as some layering in the proposed underplated body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)994-1006
Number of pages13
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Crustal structure
  • Ethiopia
  • Refraction seismology
  • Rifts


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