A top to bottom lithospheric study of Africa and Arabia

Michael E. Pasyanos, Andrew A. Nyblade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


We study the lithospheric structure of Africa, Arabia and adjacent oceanic regions with fundamental-mode surface waves over a broad period range. Including group velocities with periods shorter than 35 s allows us to examine shallower features than previous studies of the whole continent. In the process, we have developed a crustal thickness map of Africa. Main features include crustal thickness increases under the West African, Congo, and Kalahari cratons. We find crustal thinning under Mesozoic and Cenozoic rifts, including the Benue Trough, Red Sea, and East, Central, and West African rift systems, along with less abrupt crustal thickness changes at passive continental margins. We also find crustal thickness differences in North Africa between the West African Craton and East Saharan Shield. Crustal shear wave velocities are generally faster in oceanic regions and cratons, and slower in more recent crust and in active and remnant orogenic regions. Deeper structure, related to the thickness of cratons and modern rifting, is generally consistent with previous work. Under cratons we find thick lithosphere and fast upper mantle velocities, while under rifts we find thinned lithosphere and slower upper mantle velocities. However, we also find the lack of a thick cratonic keel beneath the central portion of the Congo Craton. There are no consistent effects in areas classified as hotspots, indicating that there seem to be numerous origins for these features. Finally, it appears that the African Superswell, which is responsible for high elevation and uplift over large portions of Africa, has had a significantly different impact (as indicated by features such as temperature, time of influence, etc.) in the north and the south. This is consistent with episodic activity at shallow depths, which is well-expressed in northeastern Africa and Arabia today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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