Lower-crustal rifting in the Rukwa Graben, East Africa

Ming Zhao, Charles A. Langston, Andrew A. Nyblade, Thomas J. Owens

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31 Scopus citations


An Mw 5.9 earthquake occurred in the Lake Rukwa rift, Tanzania, on 1994 August 18, and was well recorded by 20 broad-band seismic stations at distances of 160 to 800 km and 21 broad-band stations at teleseismic distances. The regional and teleseismic waveforms have been used to investigate the source characteristics of the main shock, and also to locate aftershocks that occurred within three weeks of the main shock. Teleseismic body-wave modelling yields the following source parameters for the main shock: source depth of 25 ± 2 km, a normal fault orientation, with a horizontal tension axis striking NE-SW and an almost vertical pressure axis (Nodal Plane I: strike 126°-142°, dip 63°-66°, and rake 280°-290°; Nodal Plane II: strike 273°-289°, dip 28°-31°, and rake 235°-245°), a scalar moment of 4.1 × 1017 N m, and a 2 s impulsive source time function. Four of the largest aftershocks also nucleated at depths of 25 km, as deduced from regional sPmp-Pmp times. The nodal planes are broadly consistent with the orientation of both the Lupa and Ufipa faults, which bound the Rukwa rift to the northeast and southwest, respectively. The rupture radius of the main shock, assuming a circular fault, is estimated to be 4 km with a corresponding stress drop of 6.5 MPa. Published estimates of crustal thickness beneath the Rukwa rift indicate that the foci of the main shock and aftershocks lie at least 10km above the Moho. The presence of lower-crustal seismicity beneath the Rukwa rift suggests that the pre-rift thermal structure of the rifted crust has not been strongly modified by the rifting, at least to depths of 25 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-420
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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