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    Capturing magma intrusion and faulting processes during continental rupture: seismicity of the Dabbahu (Afar) rift

    Ebinger, C.J. and Keir, D. and Ayele, A. and Calais, E. and Wright, T.J. and Belachew, M. and Hammond, James O.S. and Campbell, E. and Buck, W.R. (2008) Capturing magma intrusion and faulting processes during continental rupture: seismicity of the Dabbahu (Afar) rift. Geophysical Journal International 174 (3), pp. 1138-1152. ISSN 0956-540X.

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    Abstract

    Continental rupture models emphasize the role of faults in extensional strain accommodation; extension by dyke intrusion is commonly overlooked. A major rifting episode that began in 2005 September in the Afar depression of Ethiopia provides an opportunity to examine strain accommodation in a zone of incipient plate rupture. Earthquakes recorded on a temporary seismic array (2005 October to 2006 April), direct observation of fault patterns and geodetic data document ongoing strain and continued dyke intrusion along the ∼60-km long Dabbahu rift segment defined in earlier remote sensing studies. Epicentral locations lie along a ∼3 km wide, ∼50 km long swath that curves into the SE flank of Dabbahu volcano; a second strand continues to the north toward Gab'ho volcano. Considering the ∼8 m of opening in the September crisis, we interpret the depth distribution of microseismicity as the dyke intrusion zone; the dykes rise from ∼10 km to the near-surface along the ∼60-km long length of the tectono-magmatic segment. Focal mechanisms indicate slip along NNW-striking normal faults, perpendicular to the Arabia–Nubia plate opening vector. The seismicity, InSAR, continuous GPS and structural patterns all suggest that magma injection from lower or subcrustal magma reservoirs continued at least 3 months after the main episode. Persistent earthquake swarms at two sites on Dabbahu volcano coincide with areas of deformation identified in the InSAR data: (1) an elliptical, northwestward-dipping zone of seismicity and subsidence interpreted as a magma conduit, and (2) a more diffuse, 8-km radius zone of shallow seismicity (<2 km) above a shadow zone, interpreted as a magma chamber between 2.5 and 6 km subsurface. InSAR and continuous GPS data show uplift above a shallow source in zone (2) and uplift above the largely aseismic Gab'ho volcano. The patterns of seismicity provide a 3-D perspective of magma feeding systems maintaining the along-axis segmentation of this incipient seafloor spreading segment.

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