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Developments in Geotectonics 25

CONTINENTAL
RIFTS: EVOLUTION,
STRUCTURE,
TECTONICS
Edited by
K.H. OLSEN
GCS International
1029 187th Place, SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036, U.S.A.

a Publication No. 264 of the International Lithosphere Program

1995
ELSEVIER
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Developments in G e o t e c t o n i c s 25

CONTINENTAL RIFTS:
EVOLUTION, STRUCTURE,TECTONICS
FURTHER TITLES IN THIS SERIES

1. J. Aubouin - GEOSYNCLINES

2. R.W. Van Bemmelen- GEODYNAMIC MODELS

3. A. Sugimura and S. Uyeda -ISLAND ARCS

4. A.R. Ritsema (Editor) -THE UPPER MANTLE

5. C. Lomnitz- GLOBAL TECTONICS AND EARTHQUAKE RISK

6. X. Le Pichon, J. Francheteau and J. Bonnin - PLATE TECTONICS

7. R.W. Girdler (Editor) -EAST AFRICAN RIFTS

8. S. Mueller (Editor) -THE STRUCTURE OF THE EARTH'S CRUST

9. N. Pavoni and R. Green (Editors) - RECENT CRUSTAL MOVEMENTS

10. S.W. Carey- THE EXPANDING EARTH

11. A.M. Johnson - STYLES OF FOLDING

12. M.H.P. Bott (Editor) - SEDIMENTARY BASINS OF CONTINENTAL MARGINS AND CRATONS

13. C.A. Whitten, R. Green and B.K. Meade (Editors) - RECENT CRUSTAL MOVEMENTS, 1977

14. M.N. ToksSz, S. Uyeda and J. Francheteau (Editors) - OCEANIC RIDGES AND ARCS

15. C.E. Keen (Editor) - CRUSTAL PROPERTIES ACROSS PASSIVE MARGINS

16. P. Vyskocil, R. Green and H. M#lzer (Editors)- RECENT CRUSTAL MOVEMENTS, 1979

17. J.H. lilies (Editor) - MECHANISM OF GRABEN FORMATION

18. E. V. Artyshkov - GEODYNAMICS

19. P. Morgan and B.H. Baker (Editors)- PROCESSES OF CONTINENTAL RIFTING

20. P. Vyskocil, A.M. Wassef and R. Green (Editors) - RECENT CRUSTAL MOVEMENTS, 1982

21. F.-C. Wezel (Editor) - THE ORIGIN OF ARCS

22. W. Manspeizer (Editor) - TRIASSIC-JURASSIC RIFTING


Continental Breakup and the Origin of the Atlantic Ocean
and Passive Margins, Part A and Part B

23. D.M. Fountain, R. Arculus and R.W. Kay- CONTINENTAL LOWER CRUST
Frontispiece: This spectacular photograph shows a southward view of the Rio Grande rift from the southern San Luis Valley of
Colorado to the boIsons of west Texas and Chihuahua (near top), a distance of over 700 kin. The Sangre de Christo Mountains, part
of the Southern Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains lie east of the rift. The gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument
are prominent near the middle of the upper (southern) block. The Colorado Plateau lies west of the of the northern and central
segments of the rift. Farther south and west, the Basin and Range Province stretches across southern New Mexico, southern
Arizona and northern Mexico to the Gulf of California and Baja California, visible near the Earth's limb. The cross section showing
crustal layers and upper mantle structure (see color Plate 6-9 of Chapter 6, "The Rio Grande Rift"), is constructed through
Albuquerque, New Mexico. At this latitude (35~ the vertical and horizontal scales are approximately the same. For conven-
tional map views of the area see Figure 6-1 and Color Plate 7-1. This photograph is number STS40-151-23, taken with the Linhof
camera from the Space Shuttle Columbia on 7 June 1991, at a nominal altitude of 287 km.
Preface

Continental rifling and associated processes of sonal and professional contact regarding rift research
lithospheric extension have been among the most problems, the authors strongly felt a need for more
active research frontiers in the Earth sciences over extended discussions with other colleagues from
the past four decades. These subjects cover a wide various riffs around the world and for detailed com-
range of interconnected fundamental processes oc- parisons of data and interpretations beyond the ex-
curring in an important part of the Earth for man- change of research papers or brief individual dis-
kind--the continental crust and lithosphere--and cussions. In the early 1980s, the time was ripe to
have captured the interest and attention of research- take a fresh look at research opportunities in many
ers from a wide spectrum of disciplines in the solid- fields due to the development and increased avail-
earth sciences. These disciplines range from classi- ability of greatly improved geophysical instrumen-
cal field geology through newly developed tech- tation and analysis technology. (In the United States,
niques and capabilities for seismological and elec- these initiatives have now evolved into the IRIS-
tromagnetic probing of the Earth, to sophisticated PASSCAL Consortium.) Also, about 1980, several
and realistic dynamical modeling with high-speed of the authors began the process of planning and
supercomputers. For more than 30 years, working seeking funds for a major international research pro-
groups and study committees composed of interna- gram to delineate in detail the deep lithospheric
tional researchers focusing on the problems of the structure of the Kenya segment of the East African
Earth's rift zones have been organized under the ae- rift s y s t e m ~ a system long considered to be the
gis of programs promoting international cooperative world's type continental rift. Ironically, the Kenya
research in the geosciences, such as the International rift had almost no modern deep geophysical data
Upper Mantle Project, the Geodynamics Project, and available because the costs and logistics of modern
the International Lithosphere Program. research programs were beyond the resources of any
Rifting and lithospheric extensional tectonics single national research group. To plan a compre-
have been the subjects of vigorous research and dis- hensive multidisciplinary program for East Africa,
covery, and, as such, have been extensively discussed it was necessary to review and reevaluate the results
and debated at meetings and symposia, and in many of recent deep crustal and lithospheric-scale research
books, technical monographs, and special issues of for a wide variety of other continental rift systems.
research journals documenting the rapid and con- Ultimately, the organization, funding, and field op-
tinuing progress in these fields. So why publish yet erations for the Kenya rift program (known as the
another book on the subject? Despite the extensive Kenya Rift International Seismic Project, or KRISP)
literature, the authors of this book felt that a were successfully carried out with results currently
multidisciplinary overview of continental rifting being published. This book features a synthesis of
with a principal focus on lithospheric-scale processes key results of the ongoing KRISP program.
would be significantly useful for students and expe- About 1984, an informal, "grass-roots" study
rienced researchers alike in assessing the current group was initiated to compare individual research
state of knowledge and in serving as a framework results and to explore in greater depth the apparent
for future research. differences and similarities in the interpretations
This multi-authored book was prepared by a work- from various rift systems. The group became known
ing group of geoscientists from Europe and North as the CREST working group, an acronym of Conti-
America who had been individually active in rift nental Rifts: Evolution, Structure, and Tectonics,
research problems since the late 1960s. Although which not surprisingly became the title of this book.
some members of the group had long been in per- In organizing CREST, the group was faced with a
vi Preface

dilemma. On the one hand, it was extremely impor- periods devoted to planning, outlining, and prelimi-
tant to include as wide a representation of nary drafting of several chapters. The various stages
multidisciplinary expertise as possible, as well as of draft chapters and proposals were circulated
first-hand researchers from a variety of major rift among all members for critical comments and sug-
systems. Conversely, the number of participants had gestions. In a few instances, "guest" authors were
to be limited to maintain the continuity and effi- invited to participate to achieve better balance and
ciency of working members for several one-to-two- completeness. Although this book may focus more
week-long workshops over the several years that on review than on new research, all authors firmly
would be necessary to complete planned objectives. agreed that the entire book should meet the standards
The problem was that at least 50 to 100 active re- of final external peer-review.
searchers who could be expected to make valuable This book attempts to present an overview of the
contributions came to mind, but such numbers were present state of understanding and knowledge of the
counterbalanced by the sobering realization that the processes of continental rifting from a
organizing, scheduling, and funding problems for multidisciplinary, lithospheric-scale perspective. The
such an extended-duration working group would be authors have tried to structure the chapters on each
insurmountable. (The organizational complexity and rift system in approximately the same synoptic se-
"entropy" of any long-duration working group prob- quence, so as to facilitate inter comparisons by the
ably is proportional to something like exp(+n!), reader. The book should complement its many pre-
where n is the number of participants! We possibly decessors by attempting a more "unified" picture,
should apologize to many of our colleagues who may with fewer possible omissions and imbalances than
have felt left out--but, on the other hand, they were the usual somewhat 'random' collection of volun-
spared a great deal of hard work!) Although perhaps teered papers. In initial stages of planning for the
appearing somewhat arbitrary, in the end the nucleus book, an ideal list of rift systems and discussion top-
of the CREST group was created mainly from the ics were outlined almost double what survived. As
principals involved in organizing the KRISP project. with many long-term cooperative studies of this na-
The survivors of this selection and the much longer- ture, the initial enthusiasm of the members surpassed
than-bargained-for CREST working and writing pro- abilities to devote as much time and effort to the
cess are listed on following pages. project as might have been wished for when faced
The main workshop activities of the group were with other important responsibilities, commitments,
accomplished during five intensive discussion and and deadlines. Nevertheless, the authors feel the
writing sessions held near Karlsruhe, Germany in book succeeds in presenting the status of a repre-
1987, 1989, and 1990 (hosted by the Institute for sentative majority of the continental rift systems that
Petrology-Geochemistry and the Institute for Geo- have been at the forefront of recent research. Al-
physics of Karlsruhe University) and at Los Alamos, though the entire effort took longer than anticipated,
New Mexico in 1987 and 1988 (hosted by the Los there were several "spin-off" technical papers along
Alamos National Laboratory branch of the Univer- the way that resulted directly from the CREST col-
sity of California's Institute of Geophysics and Plan- laboration. Because of external time constraints on
etary Physics [IGPP]). Each of the five major work- various authors, individual chapters were completed
shops lasted between one and two weeks and were over a period of more than one year. We recognize
convened in comparatively isolated surroundings that in any complex, rapidly advancing subject such
without the usual daily academic and work distrac- as this, one can never hope to be completely up-to-
tions. The workshops began by formulating the gen- date, but we nevertheless hope that students and ac-
eral objectives and style of the book, identifying top- tive researchers will find our efforts of value in ad-
ics requiring special attention, and assembling the vancing new efforts and understandings.
sub-teams of authors to be responsible for specific Although we may take some satisfaction that
chapters. Workshops were a mixture of informal but much of the time and effort spent by the authors of
vigorous discussion and debate, interspersed with this book were driven primarily by deep personal
Preface vii

and professional interest, we could not have achieved President of the Inter-Union Commission on the
the result without some financial support. Early dis- Lithosphere (ICL) during 1985-1990, made many
cussions with, and a proposal to, the Division of valuable suggestions as to how we could merge our
Earth Sciences of the U.S. National Science Foun- objectives with those of the International Lithosphere
dation (NSF) resulted in a modest grant from the Program (ILP). In the matter of coordination with
Continental Geodynamics Program office mainly to ILP activities, we also acknowledge the help and
help defray travel expenses for U.S. members. Dr. advice of Dr. Peter Ziegler, Binningen, Switzerland,
Leonard Johnson, NSF Program Director for Conti- who was Chairman of Working Group 3 ("Intraplate
nental Geodynamics, also kindly arranged for the Phenomena") of the Inter-Union Commission on the
International Programs office of NSF to contact the Lithosphere (ICL-WG-3), 1985-1990. Although the
NSF-equivalent funding agencies of several Euro- CREST project was an independent group and not a
pean countries to encourage financial support for formal component of ILP, several CREST members
European CREST members. Thus, it turned out for also served as participants in ILP working groups.
most members that their 'additional' participation Last, but certainly not least, we would like to ex-
in CREST activities was approved and partly fi- press our deep appreciation to Dr. Charles F.
nanced by their respective national funding organi- ("Chick") Keller of Los Alamos National Labora-
zations as a component of already-funded research tory, Director of the Institute of Planetary Physics
grants provided by the various national lithospheric (IGPP) of the University of California, Los Alamos
studies programs. In special instances, occasional branch. Not only did he provide travel support for
travel assistance was supplemented by a participant's the Los Alamos members, and organizational and
university department. CREST members thus wish funding help for the meetings held at Los Alamos,
to gratefully acknowledge support from the follow- but he has expressed continued encouragement and
ing institutions and agencies: The German Research interest in seeing the CREST book come to fruition.
Society (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft); The May others be as fortunate in their 'choice' of an
National Environmental Research Council, The enlightened research grant administrator.
Royal Society, the departments of geology of The editor would like to express his thanks to the
Durham University and Leicester University in the authors for devoting so much time and care to this
U.K.; The Norwegian Research Council for Science project. Although we all initially expected it would
and the Humanities (Norsk Allmenvitenskapelig only take a "year or so," I wish to express my appre-
Forskningsrad) and University of Oslo in Norway; ciation for the patience and perseverance shown by
The Swiss National Science Foundation and the all. The editor would especially like to thank his
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH); The friend and valued colleague, Dr. Scott Baldridge, not
U.S. National Science Foundation and the Institute only for technical discussions, but also for sharing
of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)/Los his enthusiasm and ideas for improving the organi-
Alamos Branch. zation and style of the book.
Because the CREST project was a somewhat un-
conventional experiment in international research Kenneth H. Olsen
collaboration, we sometimes wondered if it would Lynnwood, Washington
ever be completed successfully. For their continu- July 1995
ing and steadfast interest, encouragement, enthusi-
asm, and advice over the years, we are especially
grateful to four friends and colleagues: Particularly
for his efforts in helping launch the project, we thank
Dr. L.E. Johnson, National Science Foundation, Di-
vision of Earth Sciences and Director of the Conti-
nental Geodynamics Program. Professor Karl Fuchs,
Geophysical Institute, University of Karlsruhe, and
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
The CREST International Research Group

RAINER ALTHERR Mineralogisches-Petrographischeslnstitut, Universitgit Heidelberg,


lm Neuenheimer Feld 236, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

W. SCOTT BALDRIDGE Geology~Geochemistry, EES-1, MS-D462, Los Alamos National


Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, U.S.A.

MARTIN H. P. BOTT Department of Geological Sciences, University of Durham, Science


Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom

LAWRENCE W. B RAILE Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University,


West Lafayette, IN 47907, U.S.A.

VOLKER HAAK Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam, Telegrafenberg, Potsdam, D-14470,


Germany

WILLIAM J. HINZE Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University,


West Lafayette, IN 47907, U.S.A.

G. RANDY KELLER Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El


Paso, TX 79968, U.S.A.

M. AFTAB KHAN Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Road,


Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom.

PAUL MORGAN Department of Geology, Northern Arizona University, P.O. Box 4099,
Flagstaff, AZ 86011, U.S.A.

STEPHAN MUELLER lnstitut fiir Geophysik, ETH - H6nggerberg, Ziirich, CH-80903,


Switzerland

ELSE-RAGNHILD NEUMANN Mineralogical-Geological Museum, University of Oslo, Sarsgate 1,


Oslo-5, N-0562, Norway

KENNETH H. OLSEN GCS International, 1029 187th Place SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036
Formerly: Geophysics, ESS-3, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los
Alamos, NM 87545, U.S.A.

CLAUS PRODEHL Geophysikalisches lnstitut, Universiti~t Karlsruhe, Hertzstrasse 16,


Bau 42, D-76187, Karlsruhe, Germany
The CRESTInternational WorkingGroup

GEORGE A. THOMPSON Department of Geophysics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305,


U.S.A.

RICHARD F. WENDLANDT Department of Geology, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO


80401, U.S.A.
List of Collaborating Authors

DAVID J. ALLEN Exxon Exploration Company, P.O. Box 4778, Houston, Texas 77210,
USA

DIANE I. DOSER Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El


Paso, TX 79968, USA.

GEORGE R. JIRACEK Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, San
Diego, California 92182 USA

JOHN MARIANO Exxon Exploration Company, P.O. Box 4778, Houston, Texas 77210,
USA

TOM PARSONS United States Geological Survey, MS 999, 345 Middlefield Road,
Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

ERIC D. WENDLANDT Montgomery Watson, 365 Lennon Lane, Walnut Creet, California
94598, USA
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
List of peer reviewers

We greatly appreciate the efforts of our colleagues below who made time in their busy schedules to pro-
vide thoughtful peer-reviews of the chapters of this book:

Dr. J. Ansorge ETH, Honggerberg, Switzerland

Dr. R. E. Denison University of Texas at Dallas, USA

Dr. A. B. Dickas University of Wisconsin at Superior, USA

Dr. J. D. Fairhead University of Leeds, England

Dr. J.-I. Faleide University of Oslo, Norway

Dr. C. Froidevaux Ecole Normale Superieure, France

Dr. J. C. Green University of Minnesota at Duluth, USA

Dr. N. J. Kusznir University of Liverpool, England

Dr. J. McCarthy United States Geological Survey, USA

Dr. W. D. Mooney United States Geological Survey, USA

Dr. A. Myhre University of Oslo, Norway

Dr. A. Nyblade Pennsylvania State University, USA

Dr. E V. Perry Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA

Dr. B. Sundvoll University of Oslo, Norway

Dr. G. A. Thompson Stanford University, USA

Dr. G. WoldeGabriel Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA

Dr. P.E. Wannamaker University of Utah, USA

Dr. H. Zeyen University of Karlsruhe, Germany


xiv List of Peer Reviewers

Dr. P. Ziegler Binningen, Switzerland

Dr. M. L. Zoback United States Geological Survey, USA


Contents

Preface ........................................................................................................................................................................................ v
The CREST International Research Group ............................................................................................................................ ix
List of Collaborating Authors ................................................................................................................................................... xi
List of peer reviewers .............................................................................................................................................................. xiii
Contents .................................................................................................................................................................................... xv

Part I. Introduction and Overview

C h a p i e r 1. I n t r o d u c t i o n : P r o g r e s s in U n d e r s t a n d i n g C o n t i n e n t a l Rifts
K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

1.1. Terminology and classifications ......................................................................................................................................... 3


1.1.1 D e f i n i t i o n - What is a rift? ........................................................................................................................................3
1.1.2. Closely related extensional structures ...................................................................................................................... 4
1.1.3. "Pseudorifts" and other thermo-tectonic structures with only some rift-like characteristics ........................... 8
1.2. Significance of continental rifts ....................................................................................................................................... 12
1.3. Some historical highlights of continental rift studies .................................................................................................... 13
1.4. A bibliography of major recent monographs and compilations on rifting ................................................................... 17
1.5. Purpose of this book .......................................................................................................................................................... 19
1.6. References ...........................................................................................................................................................................21

C h a p t e r 2. M e c h a n i s m s o f R i f t i n g : G e o d y n a m i c M o d e l i n g of C o n t i n e n t a l R i f t S y s t e m s
M. H. P. Bott.

2.1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................................ 27


2.2. Initiation ..............................................................................................................................................................................27
2.3. Origin of anomalously hot upper mantle (hot spots) ...................................................................................................... 29
2.4. Origin of lithospheric tension ...........................................................................................................................................31
2.4.1. Extensional stress of distant origin (passive hypotheses) .................................................................................... 31
2.4.2 Local extensional stresses caused by hot spots (active hypothesis) ..................................................................... 32
2.4.3. Discussion .................................................................................................................................................................32
2.5. Modeling lithospheric extension ...................................................................................................................................... 32
2.6. Thinning of the lithosphere without extension ............................................................................................................... 36
2.7. Mechanisms of crustal faulting and graben formation ................................................................................................... 37
2.8. Flank uplifts ........................................................................................................................................................................40
2.9. Summary and conclusions .................................................................................................................................................41
2.10 References ..........................................................................................................................................................................41

Part II. Methods of Investigation" Multi-disciplinary Perspectives.

C h a p t e r 3A. P e t r o l o g y , G e o c h e m i s t r y , I s o t o p e s
R.F. Wendlandt, R. Altherr, E.-R. Neumann, and W.S. Baldridge

3A.1. Introduction .....................................................................................................................................................................47


3A.2. Magma genesis and eruption .........................................................................................................................................47
3A.3. Chemistry of igneous rocks ...........................................................................................................................................49
xvi Contents

3A.3.1. Major, Minor, and Trace Elements ...................................................................................................................... 49


3A.3.2. Compatible vs. Incompatible Elements .............................................................................................................. 50
3A.4. Processes of magmatic evolution .................................................................................................................................. 51
3A.5. Experimental studies ....................................................................................................................................................... 53
3A.6. Isotopes ................................... ......................................................................................................................................... 55
3A.6.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................ 55
3A.6.2. Isotopes as tracers of geochemical differentiation ............................................................................................. 56
3A.6.3. "Enriched" versus "Depleted" sources ................................................................................................................ 57
3A.6.4. Isotopes as tracers of magma sources ............................................................................................................... 57
3A.7. Xenoliths and thermobarometry .................................................................................................................................... 58
3A.8. References ........................................................................................................................................................................ 59

C h a p t e r 3B. S e i s m i c T e c h n i q u e s
L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

3B.1. Introduction ...................................................................................................................................................................... 61


3B.2. Reflection Profiling ......................................................................................................................................................... 67
3B.3. Refraction (Wide Angle) Profiling ................................................................................................................................ 68
3B.4. Teleseismic Techniques .................................................................................................................................................. 70
3B.5. Studies of Local and Regional Earthquakes ................................................................................................................. 72
3B.6. Analysis of Surface Waves ............................................................................................................................................. 72
3B.7. Seismicity Studies ........................................................................................................................................................... 73
3B.8. Seismic velocities in rift zones - Information from laboratory studies of rock properties ..................................... 73
3B.9. Crustal seismic velocity structure of continental rifts - a statistical analysis of data from North America .......... 78
3B.10. Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................... 87
3B.11. References ...................................................................................................................................................................... 87

C h a p t e r 3C. P o t e n t i a l F i e l d M e t h o d s
M.H.P. Bott and W.J. Hinze

3C.1. Introduction ...................................................................................................................................................................... 93


3C.2. The gravity method ......................................................................................................................................................... 93
3C.3. Interpreting gravity anomalies ....................................................................................................................................... 94
3C.4. The magnetic exploration method ................................................................................................................................. 96
3C.5. Interpretation of magnetic anomalies ............................................................................................................................ 97
3C.6. References ........................................................................................................................................................................ 97

C h a p t e r 3D. H e a t F l o w in R i f t s
P. Morgan

3D.1. Discussion ........................................................................................................................................................................ 99


3D.2. References ..................................................................................................................................................................... 101

C h a p t e r 3E. Pract~ M a g n e t o t e l l u r i c s in a C o n t i n e n t a l R i f t E n v i r o n m e n t
G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

3E.1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................... 103


3E.2. Magnetotelluric measurements .................................................................................................................................... 105
3E.3. Basic magnetotelluric principles .................................................................................................................................. 106
3E.3.1. H o m o g e n e o u s half-space .................................................................................................................................... 107
Contents xvii

3E.3.2. M e a s u r e m e n t s at the surface of a homogeneous half-space ............................................................................ 108


3E.3.3. L a y e r e d earth ........................................................................................................................................................110
3E.3.4. Multi-dimensional earth ......................................................................................................................................112
3E.3.5. T w o - d i m e n s i o n a l earth ........................................................................................................................................113
3E.4. Introduction to magnetotelluric interpretation ...........................................................................................................115
3E.4.1. O n e - d i m e n s i o n a l interpretation ..........................................................................................................................115
3E.4.2. T w o - d i m e n s i o n a l interpretation ..........................................................................................................................116
3E.4.3. T h r e e - d i m e n s i o n a l interpretation .......................................................................................................................120
3E.5. M i d - t o- l owe r crustal conductive zones .......................................................................................................................123
3E.5.1. Introduction ..........................................................................................................................................................123
3E.5.2. Sources of crustal conductors .............................................................................................................................123
3E.5.3. Intergranular aqueous fluid-dihedral angle control ......................................................................................... 124
3E.5.4. C on s e q u e n c e s of intergranular aqueous fluid ...................................................................................................126
3E.6. References ......................................................................................................................................................................127

Part III. Modern Rifts

C h a p t e r 4. The European Cenozoic Rift System


C. Prodehl, St. Mueller, and V. Haak

4.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................................133


4.1.1. Description and Location .......................................................................................................................................133
4.1.2. Recognition as a rift ...............................................................................................................................................134
4.1.3. Regional tectonic framework ................................................................................................................................136
4.2. Significance ......................................................................................................................................................................138
4.A. The southern section of the Central European rift in south-central France .............................................................. 138
4.A3. G e o l o g i c a l information .................................................................................................................................................138
4.A3.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................................138
4.A3.2. Sedimentary record ............................................................................................................................................139
4.A3.3. Igneous activity ....................................................................................................................................................141
4.A3.4. Xenolith studies ...................................................................................................................................................141
4.A4. G e o p h y s i c a l surveys and results ..................................................................................................................................142
4.A4.1. Seismic studies ...................................................................................................................................................142
4.A4.2. Gravity ..................................................................................................................................................................148
4.A4.3. Magnetic anomalies .............................................................................................................................................149
4.A4.4. Seismicity .............................................................................................................................................................149
4.A4.5. Stress pattern .......................................................................................................................................................149
4.A4.6. Heat flow ..............................................................................................................................................................150
4.A4.7. Geodetic data .......................................................................................................................................................150
4.A5. Structure and interpretation .........................................................................................................................................151
4.A5.1. Introduction ..........................................................................................................................................................151
4.A5.2. Near-surface rift structures .................................................................................................................................151
4.A5.3. Deep crust ............................................................................................................................................................151
4.A5.4. U p p e r mantle ........................................................................................................................................................152
4.B. The Rhinegraben ..............................................................................................................................................................155
4.B3. Geologic information ....................................................................................................................................................155
4.B3.1. Introduction ..........................................................................................................................................................155
4.B3.2. Sedimentary record ..............................................................................................................................................155
4.B3.3. Igneous activity ...................................................................................................................................................156
4.B3.4. Xenolith studies ...................................................................................................................................................158
4.B4. G e o p h y s i c a l surveys and results ..................................................................................................................................159
xviii Contents

4.B4.1. S e i s m i c studies ..................................................................................................................................................... 159


4.B4.2. G r a v i t y .................................................................................................................................................................. 163
4.B4.3. M a g n e t i c a n o m a l i e s ............................................................................................................................................. 165
4.B4.4. S e i s m i c i t y ............................................................................................................................................................. 165
4.B4.5. Stress pattern ........................................................................................................................................................ 165
4.B4.6. H e a t flow ............................................................................................................................................................... 166
4.B4.7. G e o d e t i c data ........................................................................................................................................................ 166
4.B4.8. E l e c t r o m a g n e t i c studies ................................................................ , .................................................................... 167
4.B5. Structure and interpretation .......................................................................................................................................... 167
4.B5.1. I n t r o d u c t i o n .......................................................................................................................................................... 167
4.B5.2. N e a r - s u r f a c e rift structures ................................................................................................................................. 170
4.B5.3. D e e p crust ............................................................................................................................................................ 170
4.B5.4. U p p e r m a n t l e ........................................................................................................................................................ 172
4.C The two northern branches: The Rhenish Massif/lower Rhine e m b a y m e n t and the H e s s e n d e p r e s s i o n ................. 174
4.C3. G e o l o g i c i n f o r m a t i o n .................................................................................................................................................... 174
4.C3.1. I n t r o d u c t i o n .......................................................................................................................................................... 174
4.C3.2. S e d i m e n t a r y record .............................................................................................................................................. 174
4.C3.3. I g n e o u s activity ................................................................................................................................................... 176
4.C3.4. X e n o l i t h studies .................................................................................................................................................. 178
4.C4. G e o p h y s i c a l s u r v e y s and results .................................................................................................................................. 180
4.C4.1. S e i s m i c studies ..................................................................................................................................................... 180
4.C4.2. G r a v i t y .................................................................................................................................................................. 182
4.C4.3. M a g n e t i c a n o m a l i e s ............................................................................................................................................. 183
4.C4.4. S e i s m i c i t y ............................................................................................................................................................. 183
4.C4.5. Stress pattern ....................................................................................................................................................... 184
4.C4.6. H e a t flow ............................................................................................................................................................... 184
4.C4.7. G e o d e t i c data ........................................................................................................................................................ 187
4.C4.8. E l e c t r o m a g n e t i c methods .................................................................................................................................... 187
4.C5. Structure and interpretation .......................................................................................................................................... 188
4.C5.1. I n t r o d u c t i o n .......................................................................................................................................................... 188
4.C5.2. N e a r - s u r f a c e rift structures ................................................................................................................................. 188
4.C5.3. D e e p crust ............................................................................................................................................................. 190
4.C5.4. U p p e r m a n t l e ........................................................................................................................................................ 192
4.6. Tectonic e v o l u t i o n of the E u r o p e a n C e n o z o i c rift system ........................................................................................... 193
4.6.1. R o l e of pre-existing geologic features ................................................................................................................. 193
4.6.2. Origin and E v o l u t i o n of stress field ..................................................................................................................... 193
4.6.3. G e n e r a l i z e d e v o l u t i o n a r y stages ........................................................................................................................... 193
4.6.4. R e a c t i v a t i o n ............................................................................................................................................................ 196
4.7. G e n e r a l c o n c l u s i o n s ......................................................................................................................................................... 196
4.7.1. K e y questions and p r o b l e m s .................................................................................................................................. 196
4.7.2. S e q u e n c e of events ................................................................................................................................................. 198
4.7.3. L i t h o s p h e r i c thinning and rifting .......................................................................................................................... 199
4.8. R e f e r e n c e s .........................................................................................................................................................................201

C h a p t e r 5. The East African Rift System


L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, R.F. Wendlandt, P. Morgan, and M.A. Khan

5.1. I n t r o d u c t i o n ......................................................................................................................................................................213
5.2. S i g n i f i c a n c e ...................................................................................................................................................................... 213
5.3. G e o l o g i c a l f r a m e w o r k ..................................................................................................................................................... 214
5.3.1. O v e r v i e w .................................................................................................................................................................. 214
Contents xix

5.3.2. I g n e o u s activity .......................................................................................................................................................214


5.3.2.1. Western rift ....................................................................................................................................................214
5.3.2.2. K e n y a rift ....................................................................................................................................................... 215
5.3.2.3. E t h i o p i a n rift ................................................................................................................................................. 215
5.3.2.4. C o m p a r i s o n s / C o n t r a s t s ................................................................................................................................. 216
5.4. G e o p h y s i c a l surveys and results ..................................................................................................................................... 216
5.4.1. K e n y a rift ................................................................................................................................................................. 216
5.4.2. Western Rift ............................................................................................................................................................218
5.4.3. E t h i o p i a n rift ........................................................................................................................................................... 220
5.4.4. Other G e o p h y s i c a l Data ......................................................................................................................................... 220
5.5. Basin structure ..................................................................................................................................................................222
5.6. E v o l u t i o n ..........................................................................................................................................................................225
5.7. C o n c l u s i o n s ......................................................................................................................................................................226
5.8. R e f e r e n c e s ........................................................................................................................................................................227

C h a p t e r 6. The Rio Grande Rift


W.S. Baldridge, G.R. Keller, V. Haak, E. Wendlandt, G.R. Jiracek, and K.H. O l s e n

6.1 I n t r o d u c t i o n ........................................................................................................................................................................233
H i s t o r i c a l Note ...................................................................................................................................................................233
6.2. R e g i o n a l setting ................................................................................................................................................................234
6.3. C e n o z o i c e v o l u t i o n .......................................................................................................................................................... 236
6.4. P r e - r i f t s e d i m e n t a r y rocks .............................................................................................................................................. 237
6.5. G e o l o g y of the rift ........................................................................................................................................................... 237
6.5.1. G e o l o g i c a l M a p s ..................................................................................................................................................... 237
6.5.2. Structure ..................................................................................................................................................................238
6.5.3. K i n e m a t i c s ...............................................................................................................................................................238
6.5.4. S y n - r i f t s e d i m e n t s .................................................................................................................................................. 239
6.5.5. M a g m a t i s m ..............................................................................................................................................................242
6.5.5.1. Late O l i g o c e n e to Early M i o c e n e ................................................................................................................ 242
6.5.5.2. M i d d l e M i o c e n e to H o l o c e n e .......................................................................................................................243
6.5.6. X e n o l i t h Studies .....................................................................................................................................................248
6.5.6.1. M a n t l e xenoliths ............................................................................................................................................248
6.5.6.2. C r u s t a l X e n o l i t h s .......................................................................................................................................... 249
6.6. G e o p h y s i c a l surveys and results ..................................................................................................................................... 250
6.6.1. S e i s m i c R e f r a c t i o n .................................................................................................................................................250
6.6.2. S e i s m i c R e f l e c t i o n ..................................................................................................................................................253
6.6.3. Surface Wave D i s p e r s i o n ....................................................................................................................................... 254
6.6.4. T e l e s e i s m i c D a t a ..................................................................................................................................................... 254
6.6.5. G r a v i t y D a t a ............................................................................................................................................................ 255
6.6.6. A e r o m a g n e t i c D a t a ................................................................................................................................................. 256
6.6.7. H e a t F l o w ................................................................................................................................................................ 256
6.6.8. E l e c t r o m a g n e t i c Techniques .................................................................................................................................. 256
6.6.9. S e i s m i c i t y ................................................................................................................................................................258
6.6.10. Stress M e a s u r e m e n t s ............................................................................................................................................ 260
6.6.11. R e c e n t Crustal M o v e m e n t s .................................................................................................................................. 260
6.7. Structure o f the lithosphere ............................................................................................................................................. 260
6.7.1. Crust ......................................................................................................................................................................... 260
6.7.2. M a n t l e ...................................................................................................................................................................... 261
6.7.2.1. F r o m P h y s i c a l Studies ..................................................................................................................................261
6.7.2.2. F r o m Isotopic Studies ................................................................................................................................... 264
xx Contents

6.7.2.3. Thinning Processes .......................................................................................................................................264


6.8. References ..........................................................................................................................................................................265

C h a p t e r 7. The Basin and Range Province


T. Parsons

7.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................................277


7.1.1. Tectonic Cycles in Western North America .........................................................................................................279
7.1.2. Timing and Styles of Basin and Range Extension ..............................................................................................279
7.2. Significance of the Basin and Range Province in reference to worldwide rifting ................................................... .280
7.3. Geologic Observations ....................................................................................................................................................281
7.3.1. Topography ..............................................................................................................................................................281
7.3.2. Sedimentary R e c o r d - Two Example Basins ....................................................................................................... 281
7.3.3. Igneous Activity ......................................................................................................................................................283
7.3.4 Xenolith Studies .......................................................................................................................................................285
7.3.5 Isotope Geochemistry, Major and Trace Element Studies ................................................................................... 287
7.4. Geophysical Observations ...............................................................................................................................................288
7.4.1. Seismicity ................................................................................................................................................................288
7.4.2 The State of Stress ...................................................................................................................................................290
7.4.3 Strain Rate from Geodetic and Other Observations ............................................................................................. 292
7.4.4. Crustal and Upper-Mantle Structure from Seismic Observations .................................................................... 293
7.4.4.1. Seismic Reflection Profiling in the Basin and Range Province ............................................................... 293
7.4.4.2 Seismic Refraction Studies: The Crustal Velocity Structure of the Basin and Range ............................ 297
7.4.4.3 Upper-Mantle--Velocity Structure from Earthquake-Source Studies ...................................................... 297
7.4.5 Potential Field Studies ...........................................................................................................................................300
7.4.6 Heat Flow and Magnetotelluric Studies ............................................................................................................... 301
7.5. Structure and Interpretation ............................................................................................................................................302
7.5.1 Low-Angle vs. High-Angle Normal Faulting ....................................................................................................... 302
7.5.2 Basin and Range Crustal Extension and Thickness ............................................................................................. 304
7.5.3 Isostatic Constraints on the Basin and Range Upper Mantle Structure ............................................................. 307
7.6. Tectonic Evolution: Sources of Basin and Range Extensional Stress ........................................................................ 309
7.6.1 North A m e r i c a - Farallon Plate 9Back- and Intra-Arc Extension ...................................................................... 309
7.6.2 Extensional Spreading Resulting from Orogenic Over-thickening .................................................................... 310
7.6.3 Basin and Range Rifting as a Result of Pacific- North American Plate Divergence ...................................... 310
7.6.4 Role of Yellowstone Plume in Basin and Range Extension? .............................................................................. 312
7.7. Summary ............................................................................................................................................................................313
7.8. References .........................................................................................................................................................................316

C h a p t e r 8. T h e B a i k a l Rift S y s t e m
G. R. Keller, M. H. P. Bott, R. F. Wendlandt, D. I. Doser, and P. Morgan

8.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................................................325


8.1.1. Description and Location .......................................................................................................................................325
8.2. Significance ......................................................................................................................................................................326
8.3. Geological information ...................................................................................................................................................326
8.3.1. Basin sructure .........................................................................................................................................................326
8.3.2. Basin sedimentation ...............................................................................................................................................327
8.3.3. Distribution of volcanics .......................................................................................................................................328
8.3.4. Compositions of volcanics ............................. ........................................................................................................328
8.3.5. Xenolith studies .......................................................................................................................................................330
8.4. Geophysical surveys and results .....................................................................................................................................330
Contents xxi

8.4.1. Seismic studies of crustal and mantle structure .................................................................................................. 330


8.4.2. Gravity anomalies ................................................................................................................................................... 332
8.4.3. Magnetic anomalies ................................................................................................................................................ 332
8.4.4. Heat flow studies .................................................................................................................................................... 332
8.4.5. Electromagnetic studies ......................................................................................................................................... 334
8.4.6.Seismicity, focal mechanisms, and stress field ..................................................................................................... 334
8.5. Structure and interpretation ............................................................................................................................................ 336
8.6. Tectonic evolution ............................................................................................................................................................ 337
8.7. Origin and development .................................................................................................................................................. 338
8.8. References ......................................................................................................................................................................... 339

Part IV. Paleorifts

C h a p t e r 9. The Oslo Rift


E . - R . Neumann, K. H. Olsen, and W. S. Baldridge

9.1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................................................................ 345


9.2. Significance ...................................................................................................................................................................... 345
9.3. Geological information .................................................................................................................................................. 347
9.3.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................. 347
9.3.2. Sedimentary record ............................................................................................................................................... 348
9.3.3. Igneous activity ..................................................................................................................................................... 348
9.4 Geophysical surveys and results ...................................................................................................................................... 352
9.4.1. Seismic crustal studies (reflection, refraction, teleseismic) .............................................................................. 352
9.4.2. Upper mantle structure ........................................................................................................................................... 357
9.4.3. Gravity ..................................................................................................................................................................... 358
9.4.4. Magnetic anomalies ................................................................................................................................................ 361
9.4.5. Seismicity ................................................................................................................................................................ 362
9.4.6. Heat flow ................................................................................................................................................................. 362
9.5. Structure and interpretation ........................................................................................................................................... 362
9.5.1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................. 362
9.5.2. Near-surface structures .......................................................................................................................................... 363
9.5.3. Deep crust and upper mantle ................................................................................................................................. 363
9.6. Tectonic evolution ............................................................................................................................................................ 366
9.7. Conclusions ...................................................................................................................................................................... 368
9.8. References ......................................................................................................................................................................... 368

C h a p t e r 10. T h e M i d c o n t i n e n t R i f t S y s t e m , U . S . A 9A M a j o r P r o t e r o z o i c C o n t i n e n t a l R i f t
D. J. Allen, L. W. Braile, W. J. Hinze, and J. Mariano

10.1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................... 375


10.2. Geologic framework ...................................................................................................................................................... 376
10.2.1. L o w e r igneous sequence ...................................................................................................................................... 377
10.2.2. Upper sedimentary sequence ............................................................................................................................... 378
10.2.3. Structural elements ............................................................................................................................................... 379
10.3. Geophysical surveys ...................................................................................................................................................... 380
10.3.1. Gravity and magnetic surveys ............................................................................................................................. 380
10.3.2. Seismic surveys .................................................................................................................................................... 381
10.4. Structure of the Lake Superior basin ........................................................................................................................... 382
10.4.1. Western Lake Superior ......................................................................................................................................... 382
10.4.2. Central Lake Superior .......................................................................................................................................... 384
xxii Contents

10.4.3. Eastern Lake Superior .......................................................................................................................................... 385


10.5. Structure of the western and eastern limbs of the rift ................................................................................................ 387
10.5.1. Western limb ......................................................................................................................................................... 387
10.5.2. Eastern limb .......................................................................................................................................................... 392
10.6. Regional rift structures .................................................................................................................................................. 393
10.7. Rock volumes, ages, and rates ...................................................................................................................................... 394
10.8. Origin of the Midcontinent Rift System ...................................................................................................................... 395
10.9. Evolution of the Midcontinent Rift ............................................................................................................................. 396
10.9.1. P r e - K e w e e n a w a n influences upon the evolution of the MCR ......................................................................... 396
10.9.2. K e w e e n a w a n evolution of the MCR ................................................................................................................... 397
10.9.3. P o s t - K e w e e n a w a n evolution of the MCR ......................................................................................................... 399
10.10. Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................. 400
10.11. References ..................................................................................................................................................................... 401

C h a p t e r 11. Rifted Passive Margins


M. H. P. Bott

11.1. Introduction ......................................................................... ........................................................................................... 409


11.2. Significance .................................................................................................................................................................... 409
11.3. Geological features ........................................................................................................................................................ 410
11.3.1. Sediments .............................................................................................................................................................. 410
11.3.2. Sediment structure ................................................................................................................................................ 410
11.3.3. Igneous activity ..................................................................................................................................................... 411
11.4 Geophysical surveys and results .................................................................................................................................... 412
11.4.1. Seismic ................................................................................................................................................................... 412
11.4.2. Gravity ................................................................................................................................................................... 413
11.4.3. Magnetics .............................................................................................................................................................. 413
11.4.4. Heat flow and thermal state ................................................................................................................................. 414
11.4.5. Seismicity and state of stress .............................................................................................................................. 414
11.5. Structure and development ............................................................................................................................................ 415
11.5.1. North Biscay margin ............................................................................................................................................ 415
11.5.2. U. S. Atlantic continental margin ........................................................................................................................ 417
11.5.3. Hatton Rockall margin ......................................................................................................................................... 418
11.6. Other rift structures near passive margins ................................................................................................................... 419
1 1.6.1. Tucano-Gabon graben system, South Atlantic ................................................................................................... 419
1 1.6.2. North Sea rift system ............................................................................................................................................ 420
1 1.6.3. Rockall Trough .................................................................................................................................................... 421
11.7. Evolution ......................................................................................................................................................................... 422
1 1.7.1. Normal (inter-plume) margins ............................................................................................................................. 422
1 1.7.2. Plume passive margins ......................................................................................................................................... 423
1 1.7.3. Origin of passive margins .................................................................................................................................... 423
11.8. Passive margin rifting compared with present day continental rifting ..................................................................... 423
11.9. References ....................................................................................................................................................................... 424

C h a p t e r 12. The Southern Oklahoma Aulacogen


G. R. Keller and W. S. Baldridge

12.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................................................................... 427


12.2 Significance ..................................................................................................................................................................... 427
12.3. Geological information ................................................................................................................................................. 427
12.4. Geophysical surveys and results .................................................................................................................................. 428
Contents xxiiJ

12.5. Structure and interpretation .......................................................................................................................................... 434


12.6. Tectonic evolution .......................................................................................................................................................... 434
12.7. Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................... 434
12.8. References ....................................................................................................................................................................... 435

C h a p t e r 13. West and Central African Rift System


G.R. Keller, R.F. Wendlandt, and M.H.P. Bott

13.1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................... 437


13.2. Significance .................................................................................................................................................................... 437
13.3. Geologic Information .................................................................................................................................................... 438
13.3.1. Overview ............................................................................................................................................................... 438
13.3.2. Igneous activity ..................................................................................................................................................... 440
13.4. Geophysical surveys and results .................................................................................................................................. 441
13.5. Structure and interpretation .......................................................................................................................................... 443
13.6. Evolution ......................................................................................................................................................................... 446
13.7. Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................... 446
13.8. References ....................................................................................................................................................................... 446

Part V. Epilogue

C h a p t e r 14. Continental Rifting: A Final Perspective


W. S. Baldridge, G. R. Keller, and L. W. Braile

14.1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................... 453


14.2. Magmatism and mantle plumes .................................................................................................................................... 453
14.3. Short- and long-term effects on continental lithosphere ............................................................................................ 454
14.3.1. Crustal effects ...................................................................................................................................................... 454
14.3.2. Long-term effects on mantle .............................................................................................................................. 456
14.3.3. The Moho ........................................................... .................................................................................................. 456
14.4. T i m i n g 4 5 6
14.5. Rupture of lithosphere ................................................................................................................................................... 458
14.6. W h a t ' s next? ................................................................................................................................................................... 458
14.7. References ....................................................................................................................................................................... 459

S u b j e c t I n d e x ....................................................................................................................................................... 461
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PART I.

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW


This Page Intentionally Left Blank
Chapter 1

Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts


K.H. Olsen and P. M o r g a n

I.I. Terminology and classifications Burke (1977) defined rifts as zones along which
the entire lithosphere has ruptured in extension. This
1.1.1 Definition - What is a rift? definition was used in modified form by the Ameri-
Early studies defined rifts as major elongate tec- can Geological Institute (AGI) Glossary of Geology,
tonic depressions bounded by normal faults, with no which defines rift in a tectonic context as: "(a) A
implication for the mode of development or for the long, narrow continental trough that is bounded by
mechanism of formation of these depressions (e.g., normal faults; a graben of regional extent. It marks
Gregory, 1896, 1921; see also t~lie de Beaumont, a zone along which the entire lithosphere has rup-
1827, 1830, 1844, 1847; Suess, 1880, 1891; de tured under extension. Cf: paar. (b) A belt of strike-
Martonne, 1897; de Lapparent, 1898; Uhlig, 1907, slip faulting of regional extent" (Bates and Jackson,
1912; Obst, 1913; Verweke, 1913, Krenkel, 1922; 1980). The subject of this book falls basically under
Willis, 1928, 1936). After many years of debate con- the first of these definitions, but to clarify and de-
cerning compressional versus extensional modes for fine the scope of the following chapters some elabo-
their origin (e.g., Krenkel, 1922; Willis, 1936; ration and modification of this definition is required.
Bullard, 1936), rifts are now generally accepted to (Note that AGI definition [a] invites comparison with
be extensional features, although they may be asso- the term, paar, which will be elaborated upon below
ciated with earlier, contemporaneous, or later com- when discussing the basic contrasts between oceanic
pression. Morphologically, they are well defined as rift valleys and continental rifts.)
elongate depressions bounded by normal faults (e.g., The Burke/AGI definition incorporates the fun-
Mohr, 1982; Ramberg and Morgan, 1984; Rosendahl, damental interactions associated with rifting, but in
1987). However, the common association of rifts most rifts no simple tests exist to define rupture,
with volcanism, high heat flow, anomalous crust and which we take to mean a complete breaking through
upper mantle structure, and seismicity provides com- of the lithosphere. Models of rock deformation sug-
pelling evidence that rifts are not confined to upper gest that the lower crust and/or the lower lithospheric
crustal levels, but that they are linked to dynamic mantle more likely deform in a ductile manner (e.g.,
processes in the lithosphere and asthenosphere. The Lynch and Morgan, 1987), and that lithospheric rup-
term taphrogenesis, introduced by Krenkel (1922) ture may not occur until dike intrusion progresses
to ascribe an extensional origin to the East African to a stage of sea-floor spreading, i.e., until all crustal
Rift, is essentially synonymous with rifting in mod- extension is accommodated by the intrusion of new,
em usage. mantle-derived basaltic crust. Perhaps a more real-
istic definition of rifts therefore should emphasize
K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

the modification in extension of the entire lithos- logical and/or near-surface geological data alone.
phere. Lithospheric deformation may not be uni- Extensive, detailed deep geophysical investigations
formly distributed in a vertical column (e.g., may be required before clear-cut differentiation is
Wernicke, 1985), but the entire lithosphere must be possible. (c) Often--but not always~specific rifts,
involved in the deformation to meet the criteria used HETS, or rifted margins may have developed as
here to define a rift. stages in an evolutionary sequence and a careful
For the purposes of this book, we have modified study of their similarities and differences contrib-
the definition of a continental rift to be "an elongate utes to the fundamental understanding of larger as-
tectonic depression associated with which the entire pects of continental extension.
lithosphere has been modified in extension." A rift
system is defined as a tectonically interconnected 1.1.2. Closely related extensional structures
series of rifts. These definitions implicitly include
the transient thermal as well as the permanent struc- The terms graben and rift valley are not neces-
tural/compositional modification of the lithosphere sarily synonymous. The classical definition of rift
during extension. Note that not included in the strict valley incorporated essentially the same criteria now
interpretation of this definition are: (1) small exten- used for graben: "an elongate, relatively depressed
sional features, or simple grabens, in which the en- crustal block bounded by faults on its long sides".
tire lithosphere is not modified by extension, (2) Indeed, two of the oldest known examples of conti-
highly extended terranes (HETs), in which no elon- nental rifts, the Rhinegraben segment of the Central
gate tectonic depression is formed, or (3) rifted pas- European rift system and the Oslo Graben, histori-
sive continental margins, where the initial tectonic cally were first recognized and so named because of
depression develops into an ocean basin. The rea- their graben-like topographic features. Rift valley
son that these features are different from continen- grabens (or more commonly, half-grabens, most of
tal rifts, narrowly defined above, may be in part gov- which display alternating polarity along the length
erned by the magnitude of extension; e.g., a small of the rift) are the dominant surface expression of
absolute amount of extension, perhaps less than 5 % many continental rifts and typically have widths on
extension over a 100-km-wide zone, may be insuf- the order of 20-50 k m ~ a scale characteristic of the
ficient to modify the entire lithosphere, and thus re- thickness of the brittle upper continental crust. In
suits only in one or a few simple grabens. On the contrast, simple grabens are minor structural depres-
other hand, a large extensional strain, perhaps greater sions, usually having scales of a few meters to a few
than 100% extension, may require such extensive km, and are created by small near-surface extensional
lithospheric modification that the elongate tectonic strains rather than by deeper lithospheric strain.
depression appears to be lost. Highly extended terranes are characterized by
We recognize the arbitrariness of this limited defi- upper crustal extension of the order of 100%, per-
nition of rift, and that the processes responsible for haps an order of magnitude greater than is typical in
all these tectonic features may be similar. Indeed, rifts. This extension is typically associated with the
they may all represent different stages in a spectrum formation of broad, shallow basins (e.g., McKenzie,
of lithospheric extension. Therefore, in this book we 1978), in contrast to the relatively deep, narrow ba-
discuss in some detail examples of both HETs and sins characteristic of rifts. In places, HETs are ex-
rifted passive margins. There are several reasons for posed in domal uplifts, with minor or no associated
this: (a) Definitions and classifications adopted here basins, but it is not clear whether these uplifts are
should be used mainly as idealized models to aid primary or secondary features associated with ex-
understanding of fundamental processes. (b) "True" tension (e.g., Okaya and Thompson, 1985, 1986).
continental rifts, HETs, and rifted passive margins In addition, HETs do not always appear to be asso-
are arguably genetically related varieties of conti- ciated with major modification of the crust and litho-
nental extensional structures, but often it may not sphere (Keller et al., 1990). It is possible that inter-
be possible to distinguish between them by morpho- actions between the crust and mantle are distributed
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts

Fig. 1-1. Major terrane styles associated with continental extension.

over a wider area in HETs than in rifts, and there- make the crustal signature of HET difficult to iden-
fore do not result in prominent geophysical anoma- tify through the superposed rift signature. Whatever
lies and volcanic signatures. Alternatively, individual the reasons for the differences among HETs and rifts,
basins within HETs may be associated with through- however, both structural features are obviously ge-
going crustal or lithospheric shears, which offset netically related through extension, but they have
deep extension from shallow extension (Wemicke, generally been studied in isolation of each other be-
1985). Continental rift extension may be superposed cause of their superficial differences.
upon HET, as has apparently occurred in two phases Passive continental margins, the products of suc-
of Neogene extension in much of the Western U. S. cessful continental separation, are heterogeneous,
(e.g., Morgan et al., 1986). This superposition may and examples can be found which support their ori-
K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

TABLE 1-1
Terms commonly used to describe continental rifts.

Term Short definition Suggested References

Continental rift Elongate tectonic depression associated with which This book
the entire lithosphere has been modified in
extension.

Rift system Tectonically interconnected series of rifts. This book

Modern rift Rift tectonically and/or magmaticaUy active, and/or Morgan and Ramberg (1987)
with remaining transient thermal phenomena.

Paleorift Dead (or dormant) rift with no remaining transient Neumann and Ramberg (1978);
thermal phenomena. Ramberg and Neumann (1978);
Morgan and Ramberg (1987)

Failed ann Branch of a triple junction not developed into an Burke and Dewey (1973);
ocean basin. Burke (1977, 1980)

Aulacogen Paleorift in ancient platform that has been Shatsky and Bogbanov (1961);
reactivated by compressional deformation. Milanovsky (1981)

Active rifting Rifting in response to thermal upwelling of the Neumann and Ramberg (1978);
asthenosphere. Sengor and Burke (1978);
Baker and Morgan (1981)

Passive rifting Rifting in response to remote stress field. Morgan and Baker (1983);
Ramberg and Morgan (1984)

gins as continental rifts or as HETs. As these con- The definitions of major extensional features are
trasting examples can sometimes be found along illustrated in Figure 1-1. A more comprehensive and
strike from each other on the same margins, a close detailed terminology of the architecture of continen-
relationship between rifts and HETs is suggested. tal rifts has been developed by Rosendahl (1987),
Perhaps the fundamental difference between rifts and primarily for use in describing the shallow structure
HETs is simply the magnitude of extension, i.e., of rifts. As the focus of this volume is predominantly
HETs are high-strain rifts. However, the interpreta- in the understanding of rifts on a lithospheric scale,
tion that some rifts develop into continental margins Rosendahl's detailed terminology is not adopted
without passing through the HET stage suggests that here, but it is recommended for detailed studies of
magnitude of extension is not the only basic differ- upper crustal rift structure.
ence between rifts and HET. We are drawn to the Important terms associated with continental rifts
conclusion that rifts and HETs represent different are summarized and defined in Table 1-1. Many fea-
modes of extension, but that a continuum between tures characteristic of continental rifts appear to be
these modes exists. This continuum is represented associated with transient thermal phenomena related
by along-strike variations in volcanic and structural to the processes of lithospheric extension, and this
styles of passive continental margins. gives a primary division of rifts into modern rifts
and paleorifts. A modern rift is defined as a rift which
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts

Fig. 1-2. Highly simplified end-member models of the causative or initiating mechanisms of continental rifting.

has active extension-related tectonic or magmatic paleorift (sometimes also called a "fossil" rift) is
activity, and/or has transient thermal phenomena defined as a dead (or dormant) rift with no remain-
(high surface heat flow, thermal uplift, shallow Cu- ing transient thermal phenomena (Neumann and
rie isotherm, low upper mantle seismic velocities, Ramberg, 1978; Ramberg and Neumann, 1978;
etc.) remaining from extensional perturbation of the Ramberg and Morgan, 1984). Two further subdivi-
lithosphere (Ramberg and Morgan, 1984). A sions of paleorift are useful: A failed arm, which is
K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

a paleorift which formed as a branch of a ridge- the lithosphere in zones of lithospheric thinning as
ridge-ridge (three-spreading-arm) triple junction, a result of the lateral density instability created by
but which did not develop into an ocean basin (Burke the juxtaposition of the hotter lower-density astheno-
and Dewey, 1973; Burke, 1977, 1980); an aulacogen sphere with cooler higher-density lithosphere in the
which is a paleorift in an ancient platform that has zone of lithospheric necking (Keen, 1985; Buck
been reactivated at some stage in its history by com- 1986; Moretti and Froidevaux, 1986). Alternatively,
pression (Shatsky and Bogbanov, 1961; Milanovsky, this same density anomaly may cause delamination
1981). of the mantle portion of the lithosphere (Bird, 1979;
The causal or initiating mechanisms of continen- Turcotte and Emerman, 1983). These two processes
tal rifting have long been in the minds of rift geosci- both tend to thin the lithosphere, and to broaden the
entists (e.g., 1~lie de Beaumont, 1827; Suess, 1891, zone of thinned lithosphere in addition to thinning
1904-1909) and have often been described by two caused by the primary stress field. Upwelling of the
end-member models, active rifting and passive rift- asthenosphere and lithosphere and heating of the
ing (Neumann and Ramberg, 1978; Seng6r and lithosphere preceding and during rifting commonly
Burke, 1978; Baker and Morgan, 1981; Morgan and result in generation of significant volumes of mantle-
Baker, 1983). Active rifting is defined as rifting in derived magmas which are added to the crust. The
response to a thermal upwelling of the asthenos- chemistry of the mantle lithosphere may also be
phere, where the causative stresses for rifting are modified by this process. Volumetric strain relations
directly or indirectly associated with lateral thermal associated with crustal and lithospheric extension
density variations in the lithosphere and the under- may be significantly modified by this process.
lying asthenosphere. In active rifting the lithosphere
is thermally thinned by heating and absorption into 1.1.3. "Pseudorifts" and other thermo-tectonic
the asthenosphere, in addition to necking in response structures with only some rift-like characteris-
to extension, and hence the volume of asthenosphere tics
rising into the lithosphere exceeds the volume of
lithosphere displaced laterally by extension. All Several types of major thermo-tectonic features
modern rifts are of Cenozoic age, i.e. younger than display some rift-like characteristics suggestive of
65 million years (50-100 m.y. is approximately the a genetic association with continental rifts and some-
time scale for a large thermal perturbation, or 'pulse,' times may be confused with rifts. However, many
at the depth of the continental lithosphere to expo- of these are not generally classified as rifts because
nentially decay due to conductive heat transfer pro- they fail to meet one or both of the two principal
cesses). Passive rifting is defined as rifting in re- criteria distinctive of 'true' rifts as defined in sec-
sponse to a regional stress field, usually assumed to tion 1.1.1" (1) a major extensional depression, and
originate from remote plate boundary forces. In pas- (2) significant modification of the entire thickness
sive rifting, the lithosphere is thinned only in re- of the lithosphere. As noted previously, this category
sponse to extension. These two contrasting causative possibly should include highly extended terranes and
mechanisms are illustrated in Figure 1-2a, and the passive margins, but, because of their close relation-
most direct implications of the two model mecha- ship with basic rifting processes and evolution, we
nisms for evolution of the lithosphere/asthenosphere have felt it necessary to discuss these above (Fig.
boundary are shown in Figure 1-2b. 1-1, and section 1.1.2.) as well as in greater detail
The causal mechanisms of rifting are not the only in later chapters. Three of the more clear-cut mem-
mechanisms responsible for the final lithospheric bers of the "pseudorift" category include pull-apart
structure resulting from rifting. A number of sec- basins, volcano-tectonic depressions, and continen-
ondary processes may modify the lithosphere in re- tal flood basalt provinces (Fig. 1--4). The other some-
sponse to active or passive lithospheric thinning. times misclassified members of this category are the
Some of these processes are illustrated in Figure 1- so-called oceanic rifts. Unfortunately, due to lack
3. Secondary convection may occur at the base of of space, detailed discussions of examples of these
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts

Fig. 1-3. Secondary processes modifying the lithosphere in response to lithospheric thinning.

latter pseudorift structures cannot be included in this axis of extension associated with the system. In a
book even though this would considerably broaden rift the axis of extension is roughly perpendicular to
our general understanding of rifts and rifting pro- the axis of the structural depression, whereas for a
cesses. However, brief summaries of a few basic pull-apart basin, the axis of extension is parallel or
characteristics are given below. sub-parallel to the axis of the depression. These two
Pull-apart basins (sometimes called structures also originate in contrasting tectonic en-
'rhombochasms,' or 'rhombograben') customarily vironments: Rifts are associated with an extensional
are distinguished from rifts primarily through the stress field; pull-apart basins are associated with en
10 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

echelon offsets in transform faults where the offset "normal," steady-state seafloor spreading at
has the same sense as the fault displacement (Fig. midocean ridges. Oceanic LIP examples include
1--4). Thus, pull-apart structures commonly occur in oceanic plateaus, ocean basin flood basalts, volca-
regions of predominantly transform faulting such as nic passive margins, submarine ridges, and seamount
the San Andreas fault system, the Gulf of Califor- groups. Continental flood basalt provinces
nia, and the Dead Sea. However, from the criteria (Macdougall, 1988; 1992) are generally vast, later-
adopted in this book, the key factor distinguishing ally extensive volcanic plateaus which are commonly
pull-apart basins from true rifts is not so much the associated with a regional extensional stress field
orientation of the extension axis but rather that these as evidenced by dikes and vent alignments, but lack
features are not through-going, lithospheric-scale obvious major elongate tectonic depressions. De-
structures. Again, as in discussions above regarding pressions within these provinces are generally due
fine distinctions between grabens, rifts, and HETS, to gravitational loading by the extensive surface
we must reemphasize that the brief definitions flows. Although continental flood basalt provinces
adopted here are in some ways arbitrary and that are not usually included as a common branch of rift-
some large tectonic features may be difficult to clas- to-ocean evolution, they undoubtedly are products
sify due to present incomplete knowledge of associ- of continental extension and often appear in obvi-
ated deep lithospheric structure. Some would argue ous close associations with rift systems, highly ex-
that, in the Dead Sea transform system for instance, tended terranes, and other manifestations of conti-
the large basins of the Gulf of Elat (Aqaba) may be nental breakup. Examples are the Columbia River
true rift basins, but this cannot yet be proven be- Plateau extending northward from the Basin and
cause of the uncertainty about the deep lithospheric Range province, the Ethiopian Flood Basalt Prov-
structure beneath these basins. ince embracing the Afar triple-rift junction where
Volcano-tectonic depressions are typically asso- the East African Rift system joins the Red Sea and
ciated with the migration of major volcanic centers Gulf of Aden sea-floor spreading zones, and the Ju-
which leads to major magmatic modification of the rassic-Cretaceous basalts of South America, South-
crust and subsidence of the surface. In this case, sur- ern Africa, and Antarctica associated with the
face subsidence is due chiefly to post-magmatic- breakup of Gondwana. Because huge volumes of
event lithospheric cooling, widespread collapse of basalt cover such vast continental areas, detailed
large calderas, and surface loading by the extensive geophysical and geological exploration of the struc-
volcanic flows rather than to extensional stresses in ture and history of the underlying crust and lower
the crust and/or lower lithosphere. There is no ma- lithosphere in these areas has been slow and diffi-
jor extension either parallel or perpendicular to the cult. Thus, many possible similarities and associa-
depression and usually no apparent thinning of the tions between rifting processes and continental flood
underlying crust. A well known example is the East- volcanism are masked and remain unclear.
ern Snake River Plains region of Idaho which is the A fundamental distinction exists between "oce-
track of the 15 m.y. migration of the mantle hot-spot anic rifts" and continental rifts. In the early days of
now underlying the Yellowstone area. development of concepts of ocean-floor spreading
Continental flood basalt provinces are the princi- and the plate tectonics paradigm, it was recognized
pal continental members of immense crustal em- that the world-girdling mid-oceanic ridge system was
placements of predominately mafic extrusive and clearly associated with, and obviously connected to,
intrusive rocks known as Large Igneous Provinces major rift valley systems on the continents (e.g.,
(LIPs) that have been erupted over relatively short Heezen, 1960, 1969; Girdler, 1964). This global
spans of geological time (Coffin and Eldholm, 1994). "fracture pattern" became popularly known as the
Both continental and oceanic varieties are commonly "World Rift System." The initial discovery of mid-
attributed to mantle plumes or hotspots, but many ocean ridges in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans was
details are poorly understood at present. Oceanic based chiefly on bathymetric observations and fo-
LIPs appear to originate by processes other than cused on what appeared to be a tectonically active,
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 11

Fig. 1--4. Other tectonic and magmatic structures with rift-like characteristics.

continuous, median valley along the ridge crests. continental extensional processes. In current usage,
Subsequent research has considerably broadened oceanic rifts are commonly understood to be the
understanding of extensional tectonism and volcan- troughs along the crests of the mid-ocean ridges
ism of oceanic lithosphere as contrasted with the where new oceanic crust is generated from mantle-
somewhat different and considerably more complex derived magmas during sea-floor spreading. In a
12 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

sense, the walls of oceanic rift valleys are not faults sis on continental rifts as the possible sites of in-
bounding a down-dropped block of pre-existing cipient lithospheric separation and new oceans.
crustal rock (as in definitions which emphasize mor- Highly extended terranes, which share many of the
pho-tectonic criteria, particularly graben-like char- characteristics of rifts but which may fall outside
acteristics, for continental rifts), but rather are more the narrow definition of rifts above may also be fore-
akin to volcanic crater rims which contain upwelling runners of new oceans. Suture zones are the coun-
lavas. Thus, oceanic rifts more closely fit within the terparts of rifts in the process of convergence (Burke
AGI Glossary definition ofpaar: "A depression pro- et al. 1977; Dewey, 1977).
duced by the moving-apart of crustal blocks rather Rifting is associated with permanent modification
by subsidence within a crustal block. It is floored of the continental crust, and perhaps the whole thick-
with upper-mantle igneous rocks and is essentially ness of the continental lithosphere, even where ex-
devoid of crustal material. Examples are the Gulf of tension does not progress to continental separation.
California and the Dead Sea. Entymol: Hebrew." Magmatic activity in some rifts adds a significant
(Bates and Jackson, 1980). volume of mantle-derived basaltic intrusive and
extrusive material to the continental crust, resulting
in a crust that is not thinned in proportion to the
1.2. Significance of continental rifts amount of extension. Additional processes for in-
There are a number of important reasons for study- teractions between the subcontinental lithosphere
ing rift zones and rifting processes: and the convecting upper mantle have been sug-
1) Rifting is one of two fundamental tectonic pro- gested. These are topics of much current research--
cess affecting the continents, the other being colli- particularly by numerical modeling techniques--but
sion; may be difficult to quantify because interpretations
2) Rifting causes permanent modification of the of possible evidence (e.g., isotope ratios, lithosphere-
continental lithosphere and may be important in add- asthenospheric structures inferred from seismic
ing material to the lithosphere and in recycling con- tomography studies) may still lack adequate spatial
tinental mantle lithosphere back into the convecting resolution. Lithospheric thinning exclusively by
upper mantle; ductile processes and consequent asthenospheric
3) Through igneous processes, rifting provides a upwelling does not transfer material from the litho-
'window' into the physical-chemical state of the sphere to the asthenosphere, but "second-order" ex-
mantle; changes at the boundary layer (small-scale convec-
4) A variety of natural resources are associated tion, lithospheric melting, underplating, "delamina-
with rift environments; tion" of the subcrustal lithosphere, and other pos-
5) Rifts can be the sites of natural hazards such sible forms of subcrustal lithospheric stoping) in-
as earthquakes and volcanism. deed probably contribute to recycling of the lithos-
It is generally accepted that rifts represent the phere. Rates and the quantitative significance of sub-
initial stage of continental breakup and the start of rift interactions to the global lithospheric-
the Wilson cycle of plate tectonics (ocean opening asthenospheric recycling (material-exchange) bud-
and closing). Plate tectonics requires that new ex- get remain unknown. Certainly the reverse process
tensional plate boundaries be formed throughout probably happens; as asthenosphere moves upward
geologic time in order to maintain a multi-plate re- and cools, it is converted to lithosphere.
gime in dynamic equilibrium with subduction zones. Through igneous processes, rifts and other major
These new extensional plate boundaries form pref- magmatic systems provide an opportunity to study
erentially in continental lithosphere because it is the chemical composition, physical conditions, and
weaker than oceanic lithosphere with a similar evolution of the sub-continental mantle. Detailed
geotherm (Vink et al., 1984; Lynch and Morgan, interpretations of geochemical and isotopic charac-
1987), and plate tectonics has placed a new empha- teristics, including radiometric ages, of both
extrusive and intrusive rocks provide unique insights
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 13

into rifting processes, in part by helping to delin- stored in the lithosphere to be released in an earth-
eate regional variations in upper mantle properties quake is related to the thermal structure of the litho-
which may be invisible to geophysical techniques. sphere, and a weak inverse correlation exists between
Xenoliths entrained in magmatic rocks represent the seismic energy release and the amount of volca-
samples of the continental lithosphere and provide nism~larger earthquakes typically being associated
direct access to portions of this lithosphere. with non-volcanic rift segments. One still puzzling
Several economically important resources are of- aspect of rift-related seismicity is the fact that some
ten generated as a direct consequence of both ther- paleorifts, such as the New Madrid rift (not treated
mal and structural processes of rift evolution. Some in this book) in the central U.S.A., appear to be
resources are formed within rifts, whereas others are closely associated with potentially dangerous earth-
created in earlier geological environments and are quake zones (Johnston, 1989; Johnston and Kanter,
only later exposed or transported to the near-surface 1990). This seismicity is possibly due to reactiva-
as a consequence of rifting. Largely thermally-as- tion of buried faults and old zones of weakness that
sociated resources include geothermal energy and resulted from extensive crustal modification due to
mineral deposits of hydrothermal/magmatic origin, the ancient rifting event. A variation on this hypoth-
such as molybdenum, some hydrothermal copper, esis is that now-cold massive igneous intrusions or
and magmatic copper-nickel deposits. Sedimentary mafic residues in the deep crust, emplaced during
rift basins provide nearly-ideal habitats (reservoirs) ancient rifting, may help localize contemporary deep
for hydrocarbon resources, and extensive evaporite crustal stresses and zones of seismic energy release.
deposits are characteristically found in basins asso-
ciated with the late stages of rifting just prior to con-
tinental splitting (e.g., Afar). Increasingly, ground- 1.3. Some historical highlights of continental
water is becoming a critical resource, especially for rift studies
developing large urban population centers. Rifts can
As has been alluded to previously in this chapter,
affect or even control regional hydrology in very
the early recognition of continental rifts as major
significant ways. For example, the Albuquerque ba- tectonic features and the development of many rec-
sin in arid New Mexico is one of the largest and deep-
ognizably modern concepts and ideas about their
est sedimentary basins within the Rio Grande rift
character can be traced back to the early 1800s. As
(Chapter 6). The porous, syn-rift Neogene sediments
yet there has been no in-depth study specifically
of the Albuquerque basin have a total pore-fluid
focused on the historical development of observa-
volume of about 1900 km 3(equivalent to 12,000 bil-
tions and theories of rifting--although rifting some-
lion barrels (bbl.)[1.2 x 1013], o r 1 , 5 0 0 million acre-
times receives attention in historical treatments of
feet. [1.5 x 109].), which represents an extremely
plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, and continental
large hydrological resource (Birch, 1982). Lake
drift (e.g., Hallam, 1973; Wood, 1985). Rosendahl
Baikal, the principal rift valley at the heart of the
(1987) and Mohr (1991) briefly sketch the origins
Baikal rift system (Chapter 8), contains -7400 km 3,
of several major concepts, terminology, and theo-
approximately one-fifth of the Earth's fresh surface
ries developed by early rift pioneers principally in
water.
the East African rift system. Mohr's (1991) list of
Rift-related hazards are consequences of en-
references is particularly useful not only because it
hanced tectonic and/or magmatic activity in rift ar-
is arranged in chronological order of publication, but
eas. Volcanic hazards may include explosive volca-
also because he attempts to include a more balanced
nism at large intermediate-to-silicic volcanoes and
selection of "early" (~pre- 1960) papers published in
fissure flows within and on the flanks of rifts. Earth-
languages other than English. Drake and Girdler
quakes result from the abrupt failure of the lithos-
(1982) give an overview history of rift studies be-
phere in the extensional and trans-tensional settings
fore 1970 that particularly emphasizes oceanic rifts.
of rifts. The amount of elastic energy that can be
14 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

Some historical background to the development of processes (Greene, 1982). By 1836, he had recog-
concepts and ideas on processes of rifting is pre- nized that the Vosges and Schwarzwald form an
sented by Ruppel (1995). arched uplift broken along its crest by a subsided
The structural geologist, Bailey Willis (1857- block underlying the upper Rhine valley (l~lie de
1949), longtime professor of geology at Stanford Beaumont, 1827, 1841, 1844). Later European work-
University and vigorous opponent of Wegnerian ers, including de Lapparent (1887, 1898) and espe-
ideas of continental drift, made a wide-ranging tour cially Suess (1891)elaborated on the Rhinegraben
of East Africa in 1929-30 and published an exten- structure. Indeed, it was Suess who first proposed
sive discussion and interpretation of his observations the term "graben" in an early (~1883) German edi-
(Willis, 1936). Willis, in the first chapterr of his 1936 tion of his 4-volume treatise, The Face of the Earth
book (partially reprinted in Quennell, 1982), traces (Suess 1904-1909).
the history of ideas on rift valley formation from the As pointed out by Mohr (1991), for geographic
early 1800s up to 1930, and supports his discussion and historical reasons the Afar depression of Ethio-
with key quotations (in English translation) from pia and the Ethiopian Plateau were explored and
original papers published by the chief pioneers of geologically investigated earlier (beginning ~ 1830)
rift studies in both East Africa and the Rheingraben than the true rift valleys to the south (in present-day
area of central Europe. Willis' 1936 discussion is Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, etc.). However, it was not
probably the best single English-language summary until deeper explorations into East Africa, notably
of pre-1930 ideas and debates about continental rift- by Richard Burton and John Hanning Speake begin-
ing, although, inevitably, it is colored by his own ning in the western rift area in 1857, by Joseph Th-
opinions and preconceptions in regard to causative ompson and Gustav Fischer in the central region of
mechanisms. (At this point late in his career, Willis present-day Kenya, and especially by the Hungar-
had come to favor mainly compressional mecha- ian Count Samuel Teleki in the Lake Baringo-Lake
nisms for the origin and development of rift valleys.) Turkana area during 1887-88, that it was realized
As our main objective in this section is to set the that many of the great lakes of the region were con-
stage for an overview of progress in continental rift fined in "long, narrow troughs." This observation
research since about 1960, we can provide here only eventually led Suess to term such downfaulted val-
the briefest sketch of the accomplishments and key leys as Bruche (= fractures, breaks; note this Ger-
concepts by the more prominent rift investigators man term is closer in meaning to the English term,
prior to 1930. Thus, students of the history of rift "rift" than is "graben"), and to relate them to the
research in this early period are here largely on their "graben" type of structure observed in the Rhine
own but can profitably begin their searches guided valley. It was Eduard Suess (1831-1914), a Viennese
by the excellent bibliographies listed in Willis professor of geology justly famous for his monu-
(1936), Rosendahl (1987), Mohr (1991), and the two mental treatises on world geology (Suess 1904-
reprint volumes by Quennell (1982, 1985). 1909) as well as the structure of the Alps, who pro-
While the recognition of the basic morphology vided what is considered the classic foundation pa-
of rifts and of rifting as an important process in the per on the geology of rift valleys (Suess, 1891), but
development of the Earth's surface features is usu- the remarkable fact is that Suess himself never vis-
ally credited largely to the publications and synthe- ited East Africa nor directly observed the spectacu-
ses of Suess (1891, 1904-1909) and of Gregory lar geology that he described so perceptively (Mohr,
(1896, 1921) on the East African system, many key 1991; 1992)! The outline of this astonishing story is
ideas and concepts had been derived in the early that the second-in-command of Teleki's 1887-1888
nineteenth century from interpretations in the expedition to East Africa was Ludwig Ritter von
Rheingraben. L6once l~lie de Beaumont (1798-1874) HOhnel, an Austrian naval officer with a talent for
was an exact contemporary of Charles Lyell and one perceptive and diligent scientific observation. On his
of the first European geologists to propose a global return to Europe, von HOhnel first published a geo-
tectonic synthesis emphasizing mountain building graphical account and then collaborated extensively
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 15

with Suess and the petrologist August Rosiwal to A listing of the more important and productive
extensively update the geological knowledge of East geological pioneers in East African rift system dur-
Africa (von H0hnel et al. 1891). This, in turn, in- ing the first half of the 20th-century must include
spired Suess to undertake the masterful review and C. Uhlig, E. Krenkel, F. Dixey, B. Willis, R.B.
synthesis of the geology of the entire graben system McConnell, and B. Baker (for more references see,
of eastern Africa from the Zambesi via Afar to Pal- e.g.: Willis 1936; Rosendahl 1987; Mohr 1991;
estine (Seuss, 1891), which was to have a profound Quennell 1982, 1985). Krenkel (1922, 1924) first
influence on so many students of the Earth to fol- set forth detailed field arguments ascribing a tensile
low. origin for the East African rift and coined the term
The Scotsman John W. Gregory (1864-1932) taphrogenesis for this process. Hans Cloos (1939)
probably more than anyone else is responsible for usually receives the credit for experimentally estab-
first making the African rift valleys scientifically lishing the mechanical validity for tensile origins of
famous and for establishing many of the basic field rifts through clay modeling studies, although the
concepts still used in continental rift studies. Deeply basic idea had been extensively discussed by t~lie
impressed by Suess' 1891 monograph, the 28-year- de Beaumont, Suess, Gregory, and others. Only by
old Gregory, then employed at the British Museum 1936 was it possible for Edward Bullard to apply
of Natural History, in late 1882 was asked on very the first significant geophysical study--gravity sur-
short notice to be the naturalist for a private British veys in the East Africa rift area (Bullard, 1936;
expedition to the one as yet unexplored part of the Girdler, 1964)--to begin to better understand the
Rift Valley between Lake Rudolph (now Lake subsurface structures of rifts. Arthur Holmes in his
Turkana) and the Red Sea. Gregory, delayed await- textbooks (1944, 1965) not only synthesized much
ing approvals for a leave of absence and to collect of the early work to present the basic picture of the
essential scientific equipment, joined the already East African rift system that is in use today, but also
departed expedition in Aden. The original expedi- outlined many unsolved problems that subsequent
tion soon failed due to poor planning and logistics, researchers have pursued in other continental rifts
last minute changes in point of entry and area of in- as well as the East African system.
vestigation, and illness and even some deaths of ex- Most prominent 19th and early 20th century Earth
pedition members in the unhealthy territory. To re- scientists concerned with questions of global
cover from this disaster, Gregory organized his own geodynamics--including I~lie de Beaumont, Suess,
detachment and during March-August 1893 lead an and Harold Jeffreys (1929)malmost universally re-
energetic investigation of the central part of the jected extensional mechanisms as the ultimate driv-
Kenyan rift(Gregory, 1894). Gregory confirmed in ing forces for large-scale rifting. Instead, they at-
the field and further elaborated upon many of Suess' tempted to fit abundant observational evidence for
geological ideas as well as reported his experiences extensional deformation into global models in which
with the natives and observations of the fauna and extensional regions were secondary consequences
flora of the region in a popular travelogue-format (e.g., geosynclines) of complex, but net-compres-
book, The GreatRift Valley in 1896 (Gregory, 1896). sional, interactions on a perpetually contracting out-
After a quarter century of teaching, lecturing, and ermost layer (crust) of an Earth cooling by conduc-
pioneering geological explorations in many other tion. Alternative theories, including expanding Earth
parts of the world, Gregory returned to the Kenyan theories such as that advocated by Holmes (1965),
rift in 1919 for further, mainly geological studies. still were unable to account satisfactorily for non-
The result was a comprehensive and clearly reasoned uniform patterns of zones of tectonic deformation,
treatment of the geology and petrology of Kenya and nor could they begin to explain the episodic nature
surrounding territories leading to his classic book, of tectonism during the Earth's history (Ruppel,
The Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa (Gre- 1995). By about 1950, however, there were an in-
gory 1921; see also Gregory 1920; 1923). creasing number of key studies proposing new
mechanisms and interpretations--notably the clay
16 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

modeling results of Cloos (1939) and the gravity- benefit from the new technologies and soon launched
isostasy analysis of Venning Meinesz (1950)--that into a detailed exploration of the ocean floors, which
began to tip the balance away from compressional were virtually unknown before 1940. With the addi-
theories towards extensional mechanisms. But un- tional spur to research deriving from the Interna-
doubtedly the deciding factor leading to the modern tional Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957-1958), by 1960
plate-tectonic interpretations was the massive accu- oceanographers had succeeded in constructing
mulation of ocean-floor geophysical data in the greatly detailed physiographic maps of the sea floor
1950s that forced widespread recognition of large- comparable to those available for the continents (e.g.,
scale crustal extension on a nearly world-wide ba- see Hallam [1973] for a general review, Drake and
sis. Girdler [ 1982] for aspects focusing on rift studies).
The style of rift studies underwent a major change Perhaps the most remarkable result of the postwar
after the Second World War (WW II). Prior to 1945, ocean floor topographic work was the discovery of
field studies were pursued principally by individu- a world-wide undersea mountain range with a
als or small groups using classical methods of geo- seismically active median rift valley along its crest
logic mapping and petrologic techniques. Gravity that was clearly connected to major continental rift
measurements were sparse and radioactive dating systems such as the East African-Red Sea system
was in its infancy. Since rifts were recognized prin- and to extensional structures in the Western United
cipally by their topography, active Cenozoic rift sys- States (e.g., Heezen, 1960, 1969; Girdler, 1958,
tems constituted most of the known examples. Prin- 1964; Illies, 1969; Drake and Girdler, 1982). The
cipal investigators were mostly academics or were recognition of this "world rift system" with its con-
employed by local or national geologic surveys and tinental and oceanic interconnections has been one
often devoted major portions of----or entire----careers of the central elements in the development of subse-
to a single rift. For those interested in large-scale quent global tectonic theories.
regional or global generalizations and theoretical The highly successful IGY was, however, princi-
"modeling," inductive methods of reasoning tended pally devoted to global studies of the Earth's atmo-
to dominate. sphere, hydrosphere, and ionosphere particularly in
After WW II, an interdisciplinary team approach relation to the polar regions. In order to build upon
to certain problems in the Earth sciences became the new spirit of international cooperation and to
more common. Coordinated interdisciplinary teams extend the new instrumental and analytical capabili-
gathered massive data sets over large regions of both ties to studies of the solid earth, the Russian geolo-
land and sea, and often at a global-scale. At first, a gist/geophysicist, V.V. Beloussov, at the 1960 Gen-
great deal of this work was of a reconnaissance na- eral Assembly of the International Union of Geod-
ture. This comparatively well-funded "big science" esy and Geophysics (IUGG) in Helsinki, proposed
style, characteristic of the latter half of the 20th- organization of an International Upper Mantle
century, was due largely to the unparalleled prestige Project (lUMP, or UMP). The goals of the UMP were
and power that science and technology derived from to apply cooperative techniques pioneered during the
the development of radar, nuclear weapons, and simi- IGY to a detailed investigation by all possible meth-
lar rapid technological advances during the war. ods (i.e., a coordinated, interdisciplinary study) of
Mainly as a result of wartime developments, many the Earth's upper mantle. By the next IUGG Gen-
new instruments became available (including mag- eral Assembly in Berkeley in 1963, a 7-person in-
netometers, gravimeters, echo sounders, seismic in- ternational "steering" bureau, the Upper Mantle
struments and new types of seismic energy sources, Committee (UMC), was in place and ten disciplin-
radio navigation aids, electronic equipment for prob- ary Working Groups (e.g., seismology, physics and
ing the atmosphere and ionosphere) which allowed chemistry, gravity and geodesy, deep drilling, etc.)
rapid accumulation of chiefly geophysical data that had been set up to help coordinate the wide scope of
were to shed new light on a wide variety of prob- UMC plans (Bhth 1964). Several countries also
lems. Oceanographers were the among the first to formed national UMP committees to further coordi-
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 17

nate national efforts in support of the project. The Illies and Mueller 1970) as well as in many separate
IUMP was designed to expire at the end of the 1960s, journal articles. Thus, the lUMP established a pat-
but the basic coordinating committee and working temmparticularly in the area of rift research--which
group structure has been adopted and improved for has been successfully followed in subsequent de-
various successor projects such as the International cades by its successors, the Geodynamics Program
Geodynamics Program (also known as the Inter- and the ILP: These international unions serve the
Union Commission on Geodynamics--IUCG) important functions of encouraging broadly-based
(1970--1980) and the International Lithosphere Pro- international cooperation in research and providing
gram (ILP) (1980-1990). Upon review by the Inter- forums for topical seminars and for publication of
national Council of Scientific Unions [ICSU], the volumes of collected contributions which supple-
formal closing date for ILP has now been extended ment individual research papers. For more than 30
through the 1990s. years now, rift research has remained one of the prin-
One of the first orders-of-business of the UMC cipal areas recommended for international studies
in 1963 was to recommend three broad problems by the working groups and coordinating committees
which should receive special emphasis for interna- of the IUMP, IUCG, and ILP.
tional studies"
(1) Study of continental margins and island arcs.
(2) Study of the world-wide rift system. 1.4. A bibliography of major recent mono-
(3) Gravity earth-tide studies of viscosity and graphs and compilations on rifting
mechanical behavior of the upper mantle. In this section, we attempt to provide a biblio-
The inclusion of item (2) was the direct result of graphical listing of significant collected works on
the great public as well as scientific interest in the rifting published since the beginnings of IUMP-style
seafloor mapping discoveries of the 1940s and multi-disciplinary research, but organized on a re-
1950s, and the feeling that coordinated studies of gional and topical basis. This list is evidence of the
the spectacular East African rift system using newly- great intensification of rift studies during the past
available research tools on land would yield results 30 years, but it is sobering to realize that these sym-
of comparable significance to the oceanic studies. posia volumes represent only the "tip of the iceberg."
From the start it was recognized that oceanic and Probably at least an equal volume of individual pa-
continental rifts were different in several important pers of significance to rifts and rifting processes is
characteristics, so, over time, field projects and topi- widely scattered throughout the world scientific lit-
cal research conferences tended to separate into two erature.
loosely-linked communities. With financial assis- Many key references have been published during
tance from UNESCO, the first of many international the past three decades which have focused upon rift-
"rift-seminars" was convened in Nairobi in April related studies. In this abbreviated bibliography, we
1965 (Anonymous, 1965a; 1965b). The 1965 Nairobi are concerned mainly with collected papers and sym-
conference summarized the status of knowledge of posia proceedings published together in single vol-
the East African rift system and suggested a broad umes. Although most of these can be found in the
program for future research (Anonymous 1965a); reference lists of the individual chapters of this book,
detailed reviews of regional and disciplinary topics their collection here may serve as a convenient and
were presented in an accompanying report (Anony- more concise guide intended especially for students
mous 1965b). With the encouragement of the UMC, and researchers new to the field. As noted above,
two more symposia dealing with a more world-wide there are also many important individual papers
selection of rifts soon followed (Irvine 1966; widely scattered throughout the literature which are
Knopoff et al. 1969). During the late 1960s, the long- more difficult to tabulate en masse. Serious students
running research program in the Rhinegraben was may wish to start searching for topics of particular
initiated and began to be reported collectively in
lUMP-sponsored publications (e.g., Rothe 1967;
18 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

individual interest by scanning the reference cita- IUCG Working Group 4 on "Continental and Oce-
tions and lists in the other chapters of this and simi- anic Rifts", edited by Palmason (1982). More re-
lar recent books. cently, this sequence has continued with Froidevaux
and Tan (1987), Manspeizer (1988), Lucchitta and
Recent overviews and semi-popular articles. Morgan (1990), Gangi (1991), Brunnacker and Taieb
Shorter introductions to rifts and rifting processes (1992), and Ziegler (1992a, 1992b, 1992c). In this
have appeared in encyclopedias and annual review- category should be added several books dealing more
type publications devoted to the Earth-sciences. In generally with fundamental processes important in
this category we note the articles by Burke (1977, rifting such as extensional tectonics: Mayer (1987),
1980), Ramberg and Morgan (1984), Quenell (1987), Coward et al. (1987), and Cloetingh et al. (1994);
Bond and Kominz (1988), Rosendahl (1989a, and magmatism in extensional continental settings"
1989b), Williams (1989), Olsen (1992), and Ruppel Basaltic Volcanism Study Project (1981), Leeman
(1995). Semi-popular articles for more general au- and Fitton (1989), Kampunzu and Lubala (1991),
diences include Bonatti (1987), White and McKenzie Storey et al. (1992), and Pritchard et al. (1993).
(1989), and Baldridge and Olsen (1989). Individual grabens and rift systems have been fea-
Surprisingly, there exists no satisfactory recent tured in special volumes of various research jour-
comprehensive listing~nor published global map-- nals; we subdivide them somewhat arbitrarily as fol-
showing all continental rifts currently recognized or lows:
under study. Indeed, one of the important lessons
from rift studies over the past 30 years is that conti- The Rhinegraben and associated Central Euro-
nental rifts are very numerous and have developed pean rift system. Beginning with Upper Mantle
within a range of plate-tectonic settings (but domi- Project-related reports, these include: Rothe and
nantly extensional). Rifts are found on all continents Sauer (1967), lilies and Mueller (1970), and Illies
and range in age from Archean to Recent. Probably and Fuchs (1975).
there are more than two hundred proven and postu-
lated significant continental and intercontinental The East African rift system and other, older rifts
(e.g., the Red Sea) rift structures on Earth~and new on the African continent. See Anonymous (1965a,
candidates are added yearly. Burke et al. (1978) com- 1965b), Baker et al. (1972), Girdler (1972), Bishop
piled a still-useful, continent-by-continent, "recon- (1978), Anonymous (1980), Frostick et al. (1986),
naissance" survey and global map of candidate con- Rosendahl et al. (1989), and Prodehl et al. (1994).
tinental rifts which included bibliographies of then-
available publications for each. Ramberg and Mor- The Red Sea and Gulf of Suez. Although the Red
gan (1984) modify the Burke et al. map and present Sea-Gulf of Suez system, a nascent ocean basin, is
expanded views of rift systems within selected con- not discussed in this book due to lack of space, there
tinental areas. Milanovsky (1983) suggests that exists an extensive literature on this important com-
structural and evolutionary styles of global rifting ponent of the Afro-Arabian rift complex: Falcon et
have varied at different epochs of Earth history. al. (1970), Gass (1978), Bonatti (1988), Le Pichon
and Cochran (1988), Makris et al. (1991), and Altherr
Collections with a global perspective. Many of (1992).
the rifting conferences and seminars sponsored by
IUMP, IUCG, and ILP have been documented by The Afar region. Although the Afar region is of-
volumes of collected papers. These publications in- ten classified as a part of the Afro-Arabian com-
clude conference proceedings edited by Irvine plex, it occupies a unique transition region between
(1966), Knopoff et al. (1969), Neumann and continental and oceanic styles of rifting. It thus has
Ramberg (1978), Ramberg and Neumann (1978), been the subject of intense multi-disciplinary stud-
Illies (1981), Ramberg and Morgan (1984), and ies documented by Pilger and ROsier (1975, 1976).
Ramberg, et al. (1987), and the final report of the
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 19

The Dead Sea. Similarly to the Afar region, the The Basin and Range province. There is an ex-
Dead Sea rift is considered to be a part of the Afro- tensive geological and geophysical literature on the
Arabian system, but it also possesses some extremes Basin and Range province. The key collected vol-
of tectonic style that has attracted numerous geo- umes emphasizing rift studies are: Smith and Eaton
logical and geophysical investigations seemingly out (1978), Newman and Goode (1979), and Wernicke
of proportion to its size: Freund and Garfunkel (1990).
(1981), Ben-Avraham (1987), Kovach and Ben-
Avraham (1990). The intra-continental North Sea basin. See Ziegler
(1990), and BlundeU and Gibbs (1990).
The Baikal rift. There are a number of Russian-
language monographs dealing with the Baikal sys- Passive margins. Thematic books and special
tem of rifts, but we restrict this listing to more readily journal issues containing collections of papers deal-
available English language collections: Logatchev ing with passive (rifted, extensional) margins often
and Mohr (1978), Logatchev and Zwart (1990). also include papers on active (compressional) mar-
Since the mid-1980s, a number of international co- gins, especially subduction zones. Significant col-
operative field study projects have been initiated lections dealing with continental margins in general
between geoscientists of the Former Soviet Union include: Burk and Drake (1974), Bott (1976), Bally
and Western scientists in order to better address the (1979), Watkins et al. (1979), Scrutton (1982),
important Baikal system in relation to other major Morton and Parson (1988), Raleigh (1989), Sheridan
world rift systems. See Lipman et al. (1989) for a and Grow (1988), and Barr (1992).
preliminary multi-disciplinary comparison of the
Baikal and the Rio Grande rift systems. Yet, despite the very great progress during the past
three decades in both theoretical and field studies
The Oslo Graben. Historically, the Oslo region reflected by these extensive bibliographies, there is
was the first paleorift to be recognized. Books in- still a surprising lack of consensus about many fun-
clude Ramberg (1976), and Dons and Larsen (1978), damental questions related to rifting, such as: the
but works edited by Neumann and Ramberg (1978), relationship of continental rifts to continental mar-
Ramberg and Neumann (1978), Neumann (1990) gins (why do some extensional features continue to
also contain many papers devoted to this system. the oceanic stage whereas others stop in the conti-
nental rift stage); what is the significance of differ-
The Midcontinent Rift system and other North ent volumes and compositions of magmatism in rifts;
American paleorifts. In recent years, several largely- are there any predictable trends to rift evolution; and
buried paleorift systems in central and eastern North how are the causal mechanisms of rifting related in
America have been recognized and intensively stud- detail to plate tectonics and mantle convection?
ied mainly by geophysical means. The Midcontinent Many of these questions may not have a single an-
Rift system stretching from the Lake Superior re- swer. Existing compilations of rift studies, although
gion into Kansas and perhaps Texas is probably the very impressive and useful, do not yet provide clear
most impressive of these. Collected papers on this answers to most of these basic questions.
region appear in volumes edited by S teinhart and
Smith (1966), Wold and Hinze (1982), Gibb et al.
(1994), and Ojakangas et al. (1995). 1.5. Purpose of this book

This book focuses upon a worldwide selection of


The Rio Grande rift. Books and special journal
continental rifts including the "major four" late
issues include: Riecker (1979), Baldridge et al.
Cenozoic rifts, the East African, the Central Euro-
(1984), Keller (1986), and Keller and Cather (1994).
pean, Baikal, and the Rio Grande rifts. We recog-
A detailed field guide to the entire Rio Grande rift
nize that within the rather strict definitions adopted
was edited by Hawley (1978).
in this book, 'true' rifts occupy a small portion of
20 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

the spectrum of continental extensional features. Part II give brief discussions of important aspects
While not wishing to de-emphasize the importance of the principal geological, geochemical, and geo-
of other types of extensional features, we have con- physical methods by which continental rifts are in-
fined our principal discussion to continental rifts in vestigated-including the inherent uncertainties or
order to place a finite boundary on the scope of this limitations of these methods. Understanding the ba-
book. We believe our chosen set of representative sic techniques as well as their limitations is an es-
rifts offers as broad an overview as possible, because sential need precisely because investigation of con-
these rifts comprise the most intensely studied ex- tinental rifting is such an interdisciplinary endeavor.
amples of their class and because the authors have Few, if any, individuals are likely to possess the train-
considerable first-hand research experience in these ing and experience required to fully understand all
specific systems. As our main goal is an improved techniques. Our own experiences as a Working
understanding of the fundamental lithospheric pro- Group are that we have often struggled with each
cesses of rifting, we have focused primarily on deep others' terminology, experience, and viewpoints
structures and processes associated with rifting, and while attempting to share hypotheses, models, un-
have not attempted to elaborate upon near-surface derstandings, and conclusions about complex pro-
geological details and upper crustal extensional cesses. We hope that inclusion of these short "tuto-
styles for which there is a large and rapidly growing rials" may provide insight into, and convenient ref-
literature---particularly for petroleum exploration erences about, techniques outside one's own area of
applications (e.g., Katz [1991]; Nelson et al. [1992]; expertise.
Landon [ 1994]; Lambiase [ 1994]). A few other note- Continental rifts are divided into modern rifts and
worthy examples of tectonic studies of rift develop- paleorifts in Parts III and IV, respectively. Modern
ment that concentrate upon details of surface fault- rifts selected for detailed presentation include three
ing, basin evolution, and stratigraphy include: major segments of the Central European rift system
Courtillot (1982), Ebinger et al. (1987), Burgess et in Chapter 4 (the Massif Central-Rhone-Limagne
al. (1988), Ebinger (1989a, 1989b), and Rosendahl system in south-central France, the Rhinegraben
et al. (1992). proper, and the Rhenish Massif-Lower Rhine sec-
Geological, geochemical, and geophysical data tion in northwestern Europe). As noted above, sev-
have been compiled from selected rift zones in as eral important characteristics of continental rifts
uniform a format as possible in order to present a were first recognized in the Rhinegraben area early
unified comparison of these rifts. Some discussion in the nineteenth century. Chapter 5 treats the East
of highly extended terranes, passive margins, and African rift system, with primary focus on the Kenya
other geologic terranes with rift-like characteristics (Gregory) rift, which has been the area of much re-
are included for comparative purposes. These com- cent deep geophysical research. Again, as sketched
parisons are made in order to contribute to an im- in the historical section above, the East African rift
proved understanding of the basic processes of rift- system was the locale where continental rifting as
ing. These processes include the initiating and ter- an important global process was first recognized at
minating mechanisms of rifting, the response of the the end of the nineteenth century and the early de-
lithosphere to rifting, and the relationships among cades of the this century. It is perhaps ironic that the
rifts, highly extended terranes, and passive continen- East African system, long considered to be the type
tal margins. continental rift after the pioneering geological ef-
The organization of this book is designed to be of forts of Suess and Gregory, has had to wait for nearly
use to general students of tectonics, to research work- a full century until large-scale, multidisciplinary
ers interested in specific rifts, and to geoscientists geophysical research efforts could be brought to bear
interested in continental rifting as a global geologi- on its mysteries. The Rio Grande rift, the site of con-
cal process. Before data for specific rifts are pre- siderable research by U.S. rift scientists over the past
sented, Chapter 2 examines the causal or initiating two decades is discussed in Chapter 6. Chapter 7
mechanisms of rifting, and the five subchapters of summarizes the important Basin and Range prov-
Introduction: Progress in understanding continental rifts 21

ince, including the highly extended terranes of this cuss a few broad topics pertaining chiefly to funda-
zone. The Baikal rift in southeastern Siberia is mental processes of continental rifting worldwide
overviewed in Chapter 8. Because of new opportu- which still challenge our understanding.
nities for cooperative research between rift special-
ists in Russia and the 'Western' nations, we would
not be surprised if the Baikal rift system became the 1.6. References
center of many of the exciting new discoveries and Altherr, R., (Editor), 1992. The Afro-Arabian rift system (spe-
insights in rift research over the next couple of de- cial section). Tectonophysics, 204: 1-110.
cades. Anonymous, 1965a. Report of the UMC/UNESCO Seminar on
The importance of paleorifts is that they display the East Africa Rift System (I.U.M.E Sci. Rept. No. 6). Uni-
versity Press, Nairobi, 145 pp.
the entire range of processes associated with lithos- Anonymous, 1965b. Report on the Geology and Geophysics of
pheric extension, and are typically eroded to deeper the East Africa Rift System (I.U.M.E Sci. Rept. No. 6). Uni-
crustal levels. Several examples of paleorift systems versity Press, Nairobi, 117 pp.
are discussed in Part IV. The Oslo graben (Chapter Anonymous, 1980. Geodynamic Evolution of the Afro-Arabia
9) was the cradle of many important concepts in Rift Systems - International Meeting Rome 1979. Accademia
Nazionale dei Linceii, Rome. Atti No. 47, 705 pp.
mineralogy, geochemistry, and igneous and meta-
Baker, B.H., EA. Mohr, and L.A.J. Williams, 1972. Geology of
morphic petrology even before it was recognized as the Eastern Rift System of Africa. Geol. Soc. America, Spe-
a paleorift. The U. S. Midcontinent rift system cial Paper 136, 67 pp.
(Chapter 10) is an ancient rift that was discovered Baker, B.H., and E Morgan, 1981. Continental rifting: progress
by its geophysical signature. It displays some of the and outlook. Eos, Trans. Am Geophys. Un., 62: 585-586.
Baldridge, W.S., EW. Dickerson, R.E. Riecker, and J. Zidek (Edi-
Earth's most intense and sharply defined regional tors), 1984. Rio Grande Rift: Northern New Mexico. New
gravity anomalies which are caused by massive vol- Mexico Geol. Soc. Guidebook, 35th Field Conf. 380 pp.
umes of extrusive mafic rocks constituting nearly Baldridge, W.S., and K.H. Olsen, 1989. The Rio Grande rift.
two thirds of the thickness of the crust. Some ex- Amer. Scientist, 77: 240-247.
amples of one of the possible 'end-points' of conti- Bally, A.W. (Editor), 1979. Continental Margins, Geological and
Geophysical Research Needs and Problems. National Acad-
nental rift evolution, rifted passive margins, are
emy of Sciences, Washington, 302 pp.
treated in Chapter 1l~including aspects of the North Barr, D. (Editor), 1992. Passive continental margin subsidence
Sea rift zone. The Southern Oklahoma aulacogen (special section). J. Geol. Soc. London, 149: 803-854.
(Chapter 12) serves as our type example of Basaltic Volcanism Study Project, 1981. Basaltic Volcanism on
aulacogens. The Central and West African rift sys- the Terrestrial Planets. Pergamon, New York. 1286 pp.
Bates, R.L., and J.A. Jackson (Editors), 1980. Glossary of Geol-
tem (Chapter 13) was created as part of the complex
ogy (2nd Ed.). American Geological Institute, Falls Church,
process that led to the separation of Africa and South 751 pp.
America in the Early Cretaceous. The Central and B~Ith, M., 1964. Seismology in the Upper Mantle Project.
West African rift system has been widely accepted Tectonophysics, 1: 261-271.
as a classic example of a failed arm of a "RRR" triple Ben-Avraham, Z (Editor), 1987. Sedimentary basins within the
Dead Sea and other rift zones (special issue). Tectonophysics,
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141: 1-275.
its. Birch, ES., 1982. Gravity models of the Albuquerque basin, Rio
A book attempting to overview the status of a Grande rift, New Mexico. Geophysics, 47: 1185-1197.
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Bishop, W.W., 1978. Geological Background to Fossil M a n -
cannot claim to be even close to being uniformly
Recent Research in the Gregory Rift Valley, East Africa. Geol.
up-to-date in all areas treated. Nor can it hope to Soc. Lond., Scottish Academic, Edinburgh, 585 pp.
forecast reliably---even for the near future--key top- Blundell, D.J., and A.D. Gibbs (Editors), 1990. Tectonic Evolu-
ics that may lead to breakthroughs in our understand- tion of the North Sea Rifts. Clarendon, Oxford. 272 pp.
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22 K.H. Olsen and P. Morgan

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Chapter 2

Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling


of continental rift systems
M. H. P. Bott

2.1. Introduction There are widely differing hypotheses on these


problems and it is important to seek critical evidence
This chapter focuses on modeling of the from geology (history of development and present
geodynamics of continental rifting and associated structure) and geophysics (structure of the crust and
plateau uplift. Over thirty years ago the central prob- underlying mantle).
lem was to determine whether rifting was compres-
sive or extensional in origin. It is now firmly estab-
lished from earthquake mechanisms and geological 2.2. Initiation
evidence that the present-day plate-interior major rift
structures are extensional. It has also been recog- The mechanism of initiation of rifting is the cen-
nized that the modem rift systems are associated with tral problem. Proposed mechanisms fall into two
major anomalous structures beneath the lithosphere. groups, active and passive (Seng6r and Burke, 1978),
These include both thinning of the lithosphere with illustrated in Figure 2-1. In the passive hypothesis,
upwelling of the asthenosphere, and regions of lithospheric tension of distant origin causes failure
anomalously low P-velocity and density within the of the continental lithosphere and consequent devel-
asthenosphere possibly extending down to the top opment of the anomalous underlying upper mantle.
of the mantle transition zone at 400 km depth. In the active hypothesis, the anomalous upper mantle
The central problem nowadays is to establish how develops first by some form of convective upwelling,
continental rifting and its associated structures are and the doming, volcanism and extension are con-
initiated. Following on from this, we are confronted sequent. Either way, gross lithospheric failure is in-
with the following problems concerning the devel- volved. Kusznir and Park (1984) have shown that
opment of rift systems: this can readily take place for realistic models of
(1) How does the anomalous upper mantle beneath the continental lithosphere and realistic levels of
the lithosphere form and develop? deviatoric tension provided that the lithosphere is
(2) How does the tensional stress system origi- relatively hot and thin.
nate? The passive hypothesis depends on the primary
(3) How does the lithosphere become thinned? occurrence of a sufficiently large deviatoric tension
(4) What is the mechanics of the extensional de- in the lithosphere to cause gross lithospheric fail-
formation of the lithosphere, and particularly how ure. The tension is not of local origin, being attrib-
does the rifting occur? utable to a mechanism external to the rift region.
(5) How do flank uplifts form? The lithosphere fails in tension and finite extension
occurs. Vertical movements then occur according to
28 M.H.P. Bott

Fig. 2-1. Idealized diagrams comparing the active and passive hypotheses for initiation of continental rifting. (1) shows the initial
stage for both hypotheses, and (2) shows a subsequent stage of development. The stippling indicates hot, low density regions of the
sub-lithospheric upper mantle; V denotes volcanism.

the McKenzie (1978) theory of sedimentary basin sidence (Watts et al, 1982); (4) different amounts of
formation, in response to gross thinning of the litho- extension of the upper and lower lithosphere alters
sphere and upwelling of the asthenosphere. Instan- the balance between stretching and thermal subsid-
taneous crustal thinning by stretching and faulting ence, and in particular greater extension of the lower
causes local subsidence, and accompanying rise of lithosphere can explain anomalously high observed
the asthenosphere and heating of the lithosphere thermal subsidence (Royden and Keen, 1980); (5)
causes uplift. Subsidence outweighs uplift except small-scale convection in the asthenosphere beneath
where the ratio of lithospheric to crustal thickness the stretched part of the lithosphere can further thin
exceeds about 7.0, that is the crust is less than about the lithosphere and also widen the asthenospheric
16 km thick for normal lithosphere or the lithosphere upbulge provided that the viscosity is less than 1020
is thicker than about 250 km for normal continental Pa s, thus simulating the effect of differential stretch-
crust. Subsequently, slow thermal subsidence occurs ing (Keen, 1987); (6) the stretched region of the
as the lithosphere cools and thickens. upper crust may be offset from the ductile stretch-
There are various modifications of the passive ing of the lower crust and mantle part of the lithos-
hypothesis as follows: (1) A finite rate of extension phere, such as in the simple shear model of Wernicke
(Jarvis and McKenzie, 1980) increases the subsid- (1985), or in a more complicated manner involving
ence during the stretching stage and decreases the detachments as reviewed by Lister et al. (1991).
subsequent thermal subsidence; (2) faulting and flex- The passive hypothesis with its modifications
ural effects modify the basin geometry (Watts et al., explains the formation of passive margins segments
1982); (3) allowing for lateral heat flow causes slight away from hot spot regions (see Chapter 11), and
transient flank uplift and reduces the thermal sub- certain rift structures possibly such as those of the
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 29

North Sea and the Gulf of Suez. In these examples, mal sea-level continental lithosphere to fail; possible
overall subsidence occurs in the stretched region as sources of tension are discussed later. The active
predicted, with the possibility of small flank uplifts hypothesis requires the initial development of the
developing as a result of lateral heat conduction or underlying hot spot as discussed in the next section.
small scale convection as discussed later. However, Compromises between both types of origin seem
it is not obvious how the passive hypothesis can ac- possible (see below).
count for modern continental rifts associated with The most obvious test of the initiating mechanism
doming or plateau uplift or epeirogenic uplift such is evaluation of the geological history of evolution
as western North America, East Africa or Baikal. The of the region. Where active mechanisms apply, vol-
underlying anomalous low density regions below the canism should be the first detectable event and the
lithosphere which support the regional doming are development of a low density mantle with some ini-
very much larger than would be expected for simple tial surface uplift should precede rifting; from the
lithospheric stretching. onset, the affected stretched region and its flanks
The active hypothesis explains volcanism, plateau should exhibit uplift rather than subsidence, except
uplift and rifting primarily as a consequence of the that the base of the rift depressions may subside be-
formation of an anomalously hot and low density low sea level as the rift develops as a result of sedi-
region in the underlying upper mantle - a hot spot. ment loading. On the other hand, passive mecha-
This may result from a narrow plume originating nisms require the faulting to precede the volcanism
below 400 km depth. Once the anomalous upper and regional vertical movements, and the stretched
mantle has formed, processes proceed as follows. region should exhibit subsidence at all stages even
Upwelling gives rise to partial fusion which causes without sediment loading, except for local flank
volcanism. Doming occurs as the anomalous low uplifts.
density region develops. Thus doming and/or vol- It needs to be emphasized that the active and pas-
canism should be the first detectable events. The sive hypotheses apply only to the initiation of rift
uplifted dome and its deep isostatic compensation systems, and not to their subsequent development
give rise to local deviatoric tension in the lithosphere. when complicated interaction of processes may oc-
As the lithosphere thins by heating up, the stress cur. Even for initiation, these end-member hypoth-
becomes concentrated into the relatively thin strong eses may be too simple. For example, although the
layer near the surface, with consequent stretching Baikal rift system is generally regarded by former
and faulting. The local tensional stress may be Soviet Union workers as of active initiation, never-
supplemented by regional stresses such as are caused theless northwest-southeast deviatoric tension in the
by plate boundary forces. plate probably contributed to the initiating stress
Magma generation in passive rifting occurs as a system. An even more complicated initiation sce-
result of decompression melting in asthenospheric nario probably applies to the Rio Grande rift and
material which upwells as the lithosphere thins by the Basin and Range system as discussed in Chap-
stretching, according to the mechanism of McKenzie ters 6 and 7.
and Bickle (1988). Magma generation in active rift-
ing probably predominantly occur as a result of de-
compression melting in the upper part of the rising 2.3. Origin of anomalously hot upper mantle
plume or other diapiric upwelling within the hot (hot spots)
upper mantle. It may also occur at a later stage as in Uplifted continental (and oceanic) swells are the
passive rifting, although the McKenzie-Bickle isostatic response to the development of a hot, low
mechanism may have been overemphasized in dis- density upper mantle beneath, often termed a hot
cussion of active rifting. spot. Hot spots (or hot regions) occur where the up-
Both hypotheses leave underlying problems un- per mantle extending from the base of the lithos-
answered. The passive hypothesis requires a suffi- phere (about 100 km depth) possibly to the top of
ciently large tension to cause relatively strong nor-
30 M.H.P. Bott

Fig. 2-2. Idealized sketch of the plume hypothesis of mantle convection of Loper (1985), showing the development of a relatively
wide hot spot region marked A in the sub-lithospheric upper mantle above the narrow plume.

the mantle transition zone (about 400 km depth) is How does a hot spot originate? Some sort of con-
anomalously hot by the order of 100 K average or vective upwelling in the mantle is the main possi-
more. Taking the volume coefficient of thermal ex- bility, but this could be local convection in the up-
pansion to be 2.7x10 -5 K -~, the reduction in density per mantle or deep uprising from the lower mantle.
for 100 K is about 10 kg/m 3. Assuming the thermal Upper mantle convection would only be expected
anomaly to extend from 100-400 km depth, this to redistribute the heat input by thermal conduction
would give rise to a surface uplift of about 900 m on from beneath and it is difficult to see how a large
land or 1300 m at sea assuming the hot region is heat input could occur by conduction from below
wide enough for local Airy isostasy to apply. If the over a short time period. The plume hypothesis origi-
hot spot is significantly narrower than about 1000 nating with Morgan (1971) is perhaps the most at-
km, the flexural strength of the lithosphere will re- tractive idea because the heat input into the upper
sist the uplift and cause it to be somewhat less than mantle carried by a plume rising from the lower
above. The direct effect of the raised temperature at mantle can best account for the rapid input of heat
the base of the lithosphere is to thin the lithosphere needed to explain development of hot spots over
and raise the heat flow by about 10 per cent, but this periods of 10 My or less. A useful recent review
will take about 60 My to become established by ther- dealing with plumes and hotspot volcanism has been
mal conduction, so the effects would not be seen in given by Duncan and Richards (1992).
the early stages of evolution. However, a hot spot The concept of plumes rising from a hot bound-
may give rise to more extreme local thinning of the ary layer just above the core-mantle boundary has
lithosphere by other processes as discussed in sec- received much theoretical and experimental support
tion 2.6. (e.g., Loper and Stacey, 1983; Christensen, 1984;
The thermal input to the upper mantle required to Nataf et al., 1984), and a promising view of gross
produce a hot spot is much larger than is generally mantle convection based on plumes rising to form
realized. Taking the specific heat at constant pres- asthenospheric hot spots has been proposed by Loper
sure to be 1.25 kJ/kg K, the heat input per square (1985). This model, which also involves
meter required for 100 K rise between 100 and 400 asthenospheric upwelling beneath ocean ridges and
km depths is 1.25x 1014J. This is sufficient to supply a return flow by deeply subducting slabs, is illus-
heat flow of 80 mW/m 2 for 50 My. trated in Figure 2-2. Thus the plume itself is quite
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 31

narrow but the laterally diverging head of heated system may have developed as a result of membrane
material in the asthenosphere may have a diameter stress in the African plate as it moved northwards
of over 1000 km. toward the equator. However, other rift systems
Hot spots may develop in the upper mantle in which have moved away from the equator (Rio
back-arc regions above subducting oceanic lithos- Grande, Rhinegraben, Baikal) could not be explained
phere, as a result of upward release of water and/or in this way. Further, membrane stress like bending
magma from the top of the subducting slab. The low stress is unrenewable and it is doubtful whether there
density upper mantle and thinned lithosphere may is sufficient extension available. This was an inter-
give rise to extensional structures such as rifting in esting suggestion, but has not been much taken up,
some back-arc regions. This type of hot spot may be probably for the above reasons.
relevant to the Basin and Range extensional struc-
tures and the Rio Grande rift. 2.4.1. Extensional stress of distant origin (passive
hypotheses)
2.4. Origin of lithospheric tension The two main types of renewable tectonic exten-
sional stress of distant origin which have been sug-
Extensional rifting implies horizontal deviatoric gested are convective drag on the base of the lithos-
tension. Upper crustal deviatoric tension of the or- phere caused by major cellular convection currents,
der of 100 MPa is required to produce sediment filled and plate interior stress caused by plate boundary
graben of several kilometers thickness (Bott, 1976). forces. The distinction between them depends on the
Various sources of the tension have been suggested, style of convection which occurs in the mantle.
but the only two types of stress system which ap- Drag on the base of the lithosphere caused by
pear to be adequate to explain ongoing rifting are upwelling and diverging convective motion in the
lithospheric stress of distant origin appropriate to underlying upper mantle gives rise to tension above
the passive hypotheses and local loading stress the rising currents and compression above the sink-
(buoyancy stress) resulting from an underlying low ing currents. For example, Nataf et al. (1981), sug-
density upper mantle appropriate to an active ori- gested that large scale upper mantle circulation in-
gin. duced by horizontal thermal gradients may cause
The earliest suggestion was that bending stress broad continental extension which may give rise to
resulting from flexural regional doming would give rifting and break-up. However, plates are probably
rise to tension in the upper part of the elastic lithos- driven by boundary forces such as ridge push and
phere and compression in the lower part. However, subduction pull (Forsyth and Uyeda, 1975), when
Illies (1970) and others have demonstrated that there underside drag opposes plate motion and ceases to
is insufficient extension available to explain the ob- be relevant as a source of plate interior tension.
served graben subsidence. This "keystone" hypoth- However, underside drag associated with local ad-
esis is now generally regarded as inadequate. How- vective motion redistributing hot spot material may
ever, bending stresses resulting from acute bending be a significant factor, as discussed in the next sec-
of the elastic layer caused by faulting may give rise tion.
locally to massive brittle failure, greatly reducing Plate boundary forces give rise to stresses within
the effective elastic thickness of the layer (Marsden plate interiors. Notably slab pull and trench suction
et al., 1990). acting on subducting and overriding plates at sub-
Another early suggestion appealed to membrane duction zones can give rise to tension (Forsyth and
stress in the lithosphere (Turcotte, 1974). This is Uyeda, 1975). This may have been an important
caused by changes in the radii of curvature of a plate source of tension in continental lithosphere in past
as it migrates toward the equator or toward the pole times when subduction was occurring on both sides
on the surface of a spheroidal Earth. Oxburgh and of a large continental mass such as Pangaea in the
Turcotte (1974) suggested that the East African rift early Mesozoic. It may have been an important fac-
32 M.H.P. Bott

tor in continental splitting including the development are shown separately below. The increased normal
of rifts prior to passive margin formation. However, compressional stress acting on the base of the elas-
at the present time, most normal continental regions tic layer gives rise to the flexural isostatic uplift and
appear to be in compression (Zoback et al., 1989), contributes a small amount towards the extensional
although the stress system in the eastern part of the stress in the elastic layer. The most significant con-
Eurasian plate is influencing the present develop- tribution to the extensional stress, however, is the
ment of the Baikal rift system and may have been outward drag on the base of the elastic layer exerted
important at the initiation of this system as described by the buoyancy driven flow caused by the low den-
in Chapter 8. Similarly, well-documented changes sity sub-lithospheric load.
in regional stresses have influenced the development Substantial crustal thickening may also give rise
of the Rhinegraben (Chapter 4). Plate boundary ir- to local deviatoric tension and thus to graben for-
regularities may give rise to local tension, such as mation. Some high plateaus such as Tibet are due to
in the vicinity of a bend in a transform fault (e.g. crustal thickening, where the topography and its
Dead Sea rift) or opposite a sharp bend in the trend compensating root give rise to tension (e.g.
of an ocean ridge where the resulting tension may Froidevaux and Ricard, 1987). Graben formation
give rise to a failed-arm type of rift (e.g. Benue rift occurs in this situation as the gravitational energy
in Nigeria, Chapter 13). associated with the compensated uplift is progres-
sively released.
2.4.2 Local extensional stresses caused by hot spots
(active hypothesis) 2.4.3. Discussion

The sub-lithospheric loading caused by anoma- Plate boundary forces and local sub-lithospheric
lously low density upper mantle, normally of ther- loading provide the two most promising explanations
mal origin, gives rise to substantial local deviatoric of the extensional stress characteristic of continen-
extensional stress in the strong elastic core of the tal rift systems. Plate boundary forces are appropri-
lithosphere above. This type of stress system as as- ate to rifting associated with passive margin forma-
sociated with isostatically compensated crustal thick- tion and to some of the prominent Mesozoic rifting
ness variation was originally independently recog- such as that of the North Sea. Stress resulting from
nized by Artyushkov (1973) and by Bott (1971; Bott the local sub-lithospheric loading associated with hot
and Dean, 1972). Bott and Kusznir (1979) and Bott spots and surface swells, possibly supplemented by
(1992) have shown that such a stress system caused regional plate stress, is most appropriate to some of
by an anomalous low density upper mantle below the present-day uplifted continental rift systems.
the lithosphere can be concentrated into the upper Lastly, it is important to recognize that the different
strong part of the continental lithosphere of the up- types of stress system may be superimposed, and in
lifted region to produce tension adequate to cause particular stresses caused by (1) topography and
rifting. Tension of this type must occur in the crust density-depth distribution, (2) plate boundary stress
of continental rift systems associated with updoming, systems, and (3) bending and thermal stresses prob-
even if their initiation was passive. The problem is ably combine to cause the actual stresses in most
to determine whether this is the primary source of rift systems.
the tension (active origin) or not (passive origin).
The mechanism of sub-lithospheric loading is
demonstrated in Figure 2-3 which shows a model 2.5. Modeling lithospheric extension
of an incipient hot spot which gives rise to isostatic
Thinning of the lithosphere as it extends is an es-
doming of 880 m amplitude and also causes
sential feature of the passive mechanism and may
deviatoric extensional stress of about 75 MPa in the
also be relevant to active rift formation. Insight into
20-km-thick strong upper part of the lithosphere.
the mechanism of simple lithospheric extension has
The anomalous principal stresses and shear stresses
been obtained by continuum modeling, particularly
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 33

Fig. 2-3. The isostatic surface uplift, deviatoric stresses, anomalous principal pressures and shear stresses caused by a sub-
lithospheric region of anomalously low density in the upper mantle, representing a sub-continental hot spot. The deformation and
stresses caused by the sub-lithospheric load have been computed by finite element analysis. The fight edge of the model is a plane
of symmetry, the whole structure being 2100 km wide. The thick broken lines with a dot at the center denote tension and unbroken
lines denote compression, with only the nearest to horizontal stress being shown. A solid line denotes the base of the crust and
dashed lines denote the base of the elastic upper crust and of the lithosphere. The assumed viscosities are 1023 Pa s for the lower
lithosphere and 1021 Pa s for the asthenosphere down to 400 km depth. Anomalous densities are in kg/m 3. Further details of the
modeling are given by Bott (1992).

following on from the McKenzie (1978) model of of reality in that the brittle regions of the lithosphere
basin formation. This type of modeling falls short are treated as a plastic continuum, so that major faults
34 M.H.P. Bott

Fig. 2-4. Rheological profiles of the continental lithosphere for cold shield type lithosphere under compression and hot tectonic
type of lithosphere under tension, adapted from Ranalli and Murphy (1987). All profiles show strong brittle regions in the upper
crust and in the uppermost mantle. Models (a) to (c) assume a granitic quartz-dominated rheology for the crust and an olivine-
dominated rheology for the upper mantle, but model (d) includes a lower crustal layer of basic to intermediate composition with
plagioclase-dominated rheology. Model (b) has a much thicker crust than model (a).

in the upper crust cannot be included. However, in- with quartz-dominant rheology which fails by brittle
sight is gained into several aspect of extension in- fracture, with strength increasing with depth accord-
cluding temporal and spatial evolution. The two main ing to Byerlee's law; (2) lower crust where the tem-
approaches which have been used are the thin sheet perature may be high enough for power-law viscous
approximation and two-dimensional modeling using flow to occur; (3) uppermost mantle with olivine-
numerical methods such as finite element. dominant rheology where brittle failure may occur
The lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary marks as in the upper crust if the temperature is not too
the junction between relatively strong and cool litho- high; and (4) ductile mantle lithosphere at higher
sphere from the hotter and much weaker asthenos- temperature deforming by power-law viscous flow.
phere, and it is consequently a gradational bound- Thus there may be two strong zones in the upper
ary. It is usually defined by an arbitrary isotherm crust and the uppermost mantle separated by a weak
near to the temperature of onset of partial fusion, zone in the lower crust. A further strong brittle zone
such as 90 per cent of the absolute melting tempera- may occur within the crust if quartz gives way down-
ture. wards to a plagioclase dominant rheology. The strong
In simplest terms, the rheology of the continental zone in the uppermost mantle is of particular sig-
lithosphere can be summarized in terms of four zones nificance in rifting studies as under cool conditions
in downward succession as follows: (1) upper crust
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 35

it offers the greatest resistance to extension. Some crustal effect dominates if the crust is anomalously
examples of rheological profiles of the strength of thick but the asthenospheric effect dominates if the
the continental mantle are shown in Figure 2-4. lithosphere is anomalously thick.
The strength of the lithosphere may be defined as The second and the third processes may cause the
the yield strength integrated with respect to depth extending lithosphere to strengthen more rapidly
across its thickness. Apart from the mineralogy, the than it is being weakened due to thinning. Such strain
two factors which influence the lithospheric strength hardening may cause the stretching to cease, either
are the temperature-depth profile and the crustal terminating the rift zone activity or causing it to
thickness. Higher temperatures and thicker crust both migrate laterally to form a wide rift zone. England
lead to reduced strength. When the applied tectonic and his co-workers (papers cited above) and Kusznir
force exceeds the lithospheric strength, wholesale and Park (1987) have emphasized the role of ther-
lithospheric failure (Kusznir and Park, 1984, 1987) mal effects in opposing stretching and giving rise to
takes place. As the applied force increases further, wide rift zones. For rapid stretching of 10-14 s -1
extension takes place at a finite rate depending on (0.316 Ma -1) or faster, the thermal strengthening is
the effective viscosity. subordinate, producing a narrow rift zone. For slow
The thin sheet approximation (e.g. England, 1983; stretching of 10-16 s-1 (0.003 Ma-1), cooling is effec-
Houseman and England, 1986; Sonder and England, tive possibly leading to lateral migration of stretch-
1989; Buck, 1991) assumes that the stretched litho- ing to form a wide rift zone. In contrast, Buck (1991)
sphere is wide compared to its thickness and that emphasized the importance of buoyancy stresses in
the strain rate is uniform across the thickness of the controlling formation of narrow or wide rift zones.
lithosphere. A rheological profile is constructed for An alternative approach to the modeling of ex-
the assumed crustal thickness and geothermal pro- tending lithosphere is by two-dimensional model-
file. The tectonic force required to give rise to a ing of a cross section using analytical or numerical
specified strain rate can then be determined from the (finite element) methods (e.g. Fletcher and Hallet,
rheological profile. Interpolation allows the rate of 1983; Zuber and Parmentier, 1986; Braun and Beau-
extension to be determined as a function of applied mont, 1987; Bassi, 1991; Christensen, 1992). This
tectonic force. approach makes it possible to study the development
There are three main processes which affect the of a necking instability resulting from a local weak-
temporal evolution of lithospheric stretching. First, ness such as a small crustal thickening. For instance,
the lithosphere becomes thinner and therefore Zuber and Parmentier (1986) used a lithospheric
weaker; in absence of opposing effects, this would model consisting of a strong layer which deforms
lead to accelerating thinning producing a narrow rift plastically, overlying a weaker viscous layer, to show
zone and possibly leading to continental break-up. how an instability grows to form a rift zone associ-
Second, following the adiabatic temperature pertur- ated with lithospheric thinning. They predicted that
bation on instant stretching, the lithosphere cools as the rift zone should be about four times the width of
the temperatures re-equilibrate, increasing the the brittle layer.
strength after sufficient time for the cooling to be An interesting application of the two-dimensional
effective because weak lower crustal material is re- methods is to study multiple necking. In most conti-
placed by strong olivine-rich upper mantle. Third, nental rift systems, there is a single zone of lithos-
the changing density-depth distribution as the litho- pheric failure, or possibly two zones as in East Af-
sphere and crust thin produces local loading (buoy- rica. A more complicated system of lithospheric fail-
ancy) stresses which modify the tectonic force caus- ures applies to the Basin and Range region of west-
ing the deformation. Crustal thinning reduces the em North America. This was modeled by Fletcher
extensional tectonic force and thus opposes the and Hallet (1983) as a series of uniformly spaced
stretching. On the other hand, the rise of the low regions of lithospheric necking, which are developed
density asthenosphere as stretching proceeds has the if a relatively strong and brittle plastic surface layer
opposite effect and enhances the deformation. The is underlain by a viscous lower lithospheric layer
36 M.H.P. Bott

which deforms by power law creep (n=3). They migration of a specified isotherm used to mark the
showed that the spacing of the lithospheric failures boundary. Spohn and Schubert (1983) assumed a 5-
is 25-60 km for a 10 km thick upper brittle layer. 10 times greater than normal heat flux into the base
This gives good agreement with the spacing of the of the lithosphere and found a time constant of about
basins and ranges as observed. The phenomenon was 10 My for thinning. The problem with this type of
named "lithospheric boudinage" by Ricard and mechanism is that conduction is a very slow pro-
Froidevaux (1986). cess for transferring heat through the lithosphere,
Lithospheric boudinage associated with more and unrealistically high temperature or heat influx
complicated rheological distributions has been stud- at the base is required to account for observed rates
ied by Ricard and Froidevaux (1986). Zuber et al. of thinning (Neugebauer, 1987).
(1986) showed that instability at two wavelengths (2) Magma injection models: the lithosphere is
occurred for a lithosphere consisting of a strong up- heated by magma injection from the underlying par-
per crust and a strong upper mantle separated by a tially fused asthenosphere, with associated stretch-
weak lower crust. Applied to the Basin and Range ing to accommodate the dikes. This can produce
structure, these more complicated models suggest rapid uplift, but Mareschal (1983) has pointed out
that the upper crust extends by boudinage with a that the amount of magma required is of the order of
wavelength of about 40 km, and the upper mantle 30 per cent by volume to cause even 1 km of uplift.
part of the lithosphere extends by boudinage at a (3) Diapiric penetration models: these involve
spacing of 150-200 km, with the Moho remaining diapiric upwelling of the relatively low density and
undisturbed. However, this may not be a good ex- low viscosity asthenosphere into the mantle part of
ample of normal continental rifting where stretch- the lithosphere, driven by buoyancy forces. There
ing is much less. have been a number of suggestions, including the
following. Mareschal (1983) demonstrated the fea-
sibility on a realistic time scale but used an unreal-
2.6. Thinning of the lithosphere without exten- istically large density contrast of 200 kg/m 3 between
sion lithosphere and asthenosphere. Turcotte and
The asthenospheric upbulge beneath modem rift Emerman (1983) assumed the impingement of a fluid
systems such as East Africa is much larger than can mantle plume on the base of the lithosphere, but
be explained by simple stretching consistent with found a rather long time scale for the erosion of the
observed upper crustal extension. This indicates that lithosphere. Neugebauer (1983) showed that diapiric
the lithosphere can be thinned by processes other thinning could occur over about 1 My for more real-
than extension. A number of mechanisms have been istic density values, but took rather low values of
suggested and some of these have been reviewed in 10TM and 1022Pa s for the viscosity of the asthenos-
detail by Neugebauer (1987). Widening of an exist- phere and lithosphere respectively. Yuen and Fleitout
ing anomalous asthenospheric upbulge by second- (1985) assumed a convective plume in the astheno-
ary convection is discussed in section 2.8. sphere which raised the temperature at the base of
Some mechanisms other than stretching which the lithosphere by 240 K, and used temperature and
have been suggested for thinning the lithosphere are pressure dependent viscosity to model thinning of
as follows: the lithosphere and uplift occurring over a time span
(1) Thermal conduction models: this mechanism of the order of 20 My (see also Fleitout et al., 1986).
involves heating of the lithosphere by thermal con- Moretti and Froidevaux (1986) incorporated non-
duction from a hot spot below which may move. Newtonian viscosity with a power law of 3 in the
Models may assume either a high temperature mantle and of 7 in the crust (to simulate brittle frac-
boundary condition at the base of the lithosphere or ture) to model thinning of the lithosphere and crust
a high heat flux into it. Crough and Thompson (1976) in active rifting, with the structure characteristically
modeled the lithospheric thinning by the upward developing over about 20 My. In all these models,
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 37

the time-scale is possibly rather long compared to A modification of the wedge subsidence hypoth-
the observed one unless one or more of the assump- esis worked out by Bott (1976) proposed that the
tions are extreme. fault-bounded wedge applies to the brittle upper part
(4) Magma-driven diapiric model: Neugebauer of the continental crust, with accompanying ductile
and Reuter (1987) modeled the upward migration stretching and thinning of the lower part of the crust.
of a pool of low density magma below the lithos- Calculations were based on the assumption that sub-
phere resulting from the buoyancy effects of the sidence will cease when a state of minimum poten-
magma body and of the associated asthenospheric tial (gravitational plus strain) energy is attained. It
upbulge, and showed that very rapid time-scales of was shown that significant subsidence depends on
the development of the lithospheric thinning re- low effective friction on the faults. The maximum
suited. attainable subsidence increases with the applied
There have thus been recent advances in under- deviatoric tension and with the narrowness of the
standing some possible mechanisms of lithospheric graben. Thus a 30-km-wide graben with sediment
thinning by thermal and diapiric processes, although loading has a maximum subsidence of about 5 km
further improvements in the modeling are needed. for a deviatoric tension of 100 MPa. When maximum
The most promising type of model involves diapiric subsidence is approached, further extensional activ-
upwelling, progressive conversion of lithosphere to ity would need to migrate laterally, giving a form of
asthenosphere according to a realistic temperature strain hardening additional to those discussed in sec-
and pressure dependent viscosity, and the buoyant tion 2.5.
effect of magma. For comparison of the models with The effectiveness of the wedge subsidence mecha-
observations, we need to know more about the ac- nism has been demonstrated by finite element analy-
tual time-scale of the thinning, presumably from the sis (Fig. 2-5), as described by Bott (1992) where
evidence provided by igneous rocks. At present, further detail is given. This model is driven by
these models are difficult to test. deviatoric tension in the upper crust produced by a
low density underlying upper mantle (hot spot) with
asthenospheric upbulge reaching the base of the
2.7. Mechanisms of crustal faulting and graben
crust. Superimposed on the regional swell of 1.7 km
formation
elevation produced in absence of faulting, the gra-
The earliest extensional hypothesis was the wedge ben subsidence is 3 km without sediment loading
subsidence concept as developed by Vening Meinesz and flank uplift is 1 km. With sediment loading, sub-
(1950). A downward narrowing wedge of continen- sidence above 8 km would occur. This model and
tal crust bounded by normal faults dipping at about others described by Bott (1992) emphasize the im-
60* sinks into the underlying fluid mantle until it portance of a relatively low viscosity structure be-
reaches isostatic equilibrium, with rim uplifts form- low the fault wedge to permit it to move sufficiently
ing by flexure of the crust outside the faults. Flex- rapidly.
ure theory predicts a characteristic width of the gra- It is now known that upper crustal extension is
ben of about 40 km for a 30 km thick elastic crust normally asymmetrical, with dominance of the half-
overlying a fluid upper mantle, and with additional graben rather than the symmetrical sinking wedge.
sediment loading subsidence of order of 2 km was Half-grabens have been associated with listric fault-
calculated. The principal objection to this original ing and/or shallow detachment faults. However, the
form of the wedge subsidence hypothesis is that the general mechanical principles worked out for sym-
predicted root of deep crust projecting into the metrical wedges should also apply in principle to
mantle below the rift has not been observed in seis- half grabens and their evolution.
mic experiments, rather the opposite in many regions In the Wernicke (1985) model of crustal exten-
where the crust is observed to thin. sional faulting, upper crustal asymmetrical faulting
passes down into a detachment surface which allows
the extension of the ductile part of the lithosphere
38 M.H.P. Bott

Fig. 2-5. Finite element model of an active rift with low density upper mantle appropriate to a hot spot and an asthenospheric
upweUing extending into the crust. The vertical displacement profile and the deviatoric stresses are shown for the left half of a
symmetrical model 2100 km wide. A fault bounds a symmetrical graben; The fault displacement of about 3 km subsidence and 1 km
flank uplift is superimposed on the broad domal uplift of 1.7 km. Sediment loading has been excluded, but would increase the
subsidence by about a factor of three. An enlargement of the central region is shown below. Anomalous densities are in kg/m 3 and
other mechanical properties are as in Fig. 2-3. For further details see Bott (1992).

(lower crust and mantle) to be offset from the sur- those main modern rift systems which have been
face rift structure. A series of more complicated adequately studied (Kenya rift, Baikal, Rio Grande,
styles of asymmetrical upper crustal extension linked Rhinegraben) appears to underlie, or nearly under-
to pure shear deformation of the underlying crust lie, the zone of rifting, rather than being significantly
and lithosphere have been documented by Lister et offset, with asymmetrical extension of the upper
al. (1991), and these are discussed further in Chap- crust almost directly overlying pure shear thinning
ter 11. As far as existing evidence indicates, the of the underlying crust and uppermost mantle.
crustal and lithospheric thinning associated with
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 39

Fig. 2-6. A synthetic example of the use of the flexural cantilever method of basin modeling: (a) Syn-rift basin geometry and crustal
structure resulting from imposed fault displacements of various polarities and an underlying balanced crustal structure. Flexural
isostatic equilibrium in response to the crustal and sediment loads assumes the faults are locked. The thickness of the flexing elastic
layer is taken as 3 km. (b) Syn-rift basin geometry and crustal structure after erosion and flexural isostatic rebound. (c) After 250
Ma of thermal subsidence and post-rift sediment loading. (d) As (c) but with vertical exaggeration of basin geometry. Reproduced
from Kusznir and Ziegler (1992) with permission.

The flexural cantilever method introduced by basin geometry and subsidence history if it is as-
Kusznir et al. (1991) makes it possible to model the sumed that plastic pure shear deformation affects a
flexural and thermal response of the continental region of 75 to 125 km width for each fault and that
lithosphere to planar faulting of the upper crust and the flexing elastic layer is only about 2 to 5 km thick.
distributed pure shear ductile deformation of the The method has been applied to the evolution of the
lower crust and mantle. The first stage is to impose Viking Graben by Marsden et al. (1990). A synthetic
the observed pattern of fault displacements and example is shown in Figure 2-6 to illustrate how
stretching on the upper crustal layer. It is assumed the method works.
that extension by faulting in the upper crust is ex- The flexural cantilever method imposes the ob-
actly balanced at depth by plastic deformation. The served total fault motion and thus cannot model the
method models the long term flexural isostatic equi- process of fault growth. Co-seismic slip on faults
librium resulting from thinning of the crust by fault- can be fitted to observed geodetic data on footwall
ing and plastic deformation, from evolving thermal uplift and hangingwall subsidence using an elastic
loads, from sediment fill and from erosional unload- dislocation model (Mansinha and Smylie, 1971). As
ing. The model is able to predict typical observed an example, Stein and Barrientos (1985) used this
40 M.H.P. Bott

method to model the observed ground displacement Diapiric upwelling of the asthenosphere may
profile occurring on the Lost River fault in the Ba- cause redistribution of mass within the ductile lower
sin and Range province during the Borah Peak earth- crust as well as gross stretching of the crust, thin-
quake of 1983. They showed that the data better fit- ning the lower crust beneath the rift zone by out-
ted a high angle planar fault than a listric fault. ward flow, so that slightly thickened crust occurs
beneath the flanks. This effect is shown in some of
the centrifuge mechanical models of rifting
2.8. Flank uplifts (Mulugeta, 1985). The flexural isostatic response to
The earliest explanation of flank uplifts was by the thickened crust will be to cause rim uplifts which
upbending of the "elastic lithosphere" on one or both may reach maximum elevation at some distance from
sides of the subsiding rift wedge. This idea was first the faults.
applied by Vening Meinesz (1950) to a crustal rift Flank uplifts can be caused in passive rifting, and
block, but equally well applies to wedge subsidence intensified in active rifting, by the effect of small
of the brittle upper crustal layer and to half grabens. scale convection widening the region of thinned
The cross-sectional shape of the uplift is defined by lithosphere. Keen (1985, 1987), Buck (1986) and
flexure theory, with the maximum uplift adjacent to Fleitout et al. (1986) modeled the effect of small
the rift faults and an exponentially decaying eleva- scale convection in thinning the lithosphere and par-
tion away from the rift. The occurrence of such flex- ticularly in widening the asthenospheric bulge pro-
ural flank uplifts is in excellent agreement with geo- duced by passive extension, and found that signifi-
logical observations and this mechanism is clearly cant effects could be produced over time periods of
of much importance despite the neglect of it in con- around 10 Ma. Flexural uplift occurs in response to
tinuum models of extension. However, such flank the buoyancy of the widened region of low density
uplift may be much less conspicuous when exten- asthenosphere. This type of mechanism explains the
sion is dominated by shallow dipping faults and de- formation of flank uplifts which develop signifi-
tachment surfaces. cantly later than the onset of the upper crustal ex-
Flank uplift can additionally arise from buoyancy tension and rifting, such as those bordering the Gulf
forces resulting from local regions of anomalously of Suez (Steckler, 1985).
low density beneath the immediate rift zone. The A further mechanism of relevance to passive rift-
flexural rigidity of the upper crust distributes the ing, recently modeled by Ch6ry et al. (1992), results
isostatic uplift to include the flank regions. The width from lack of local isostatic equilibrium during litho-
and prominence of the flank uplift increases with spheric extension. In particular, the Moho is char-
the flexural rigidity. Some mechanisms by which acteristically deeper than its local isostatic level
such flank uplifts are produced are briefly summa- immediately after stretching. The flexural response
rized below, the first two being most relevant to ac- of the strong upper crustal layer to the anomalous
tive rifting and the others to passive rifting. low density at the base of the crust gives rise to flank
Flank uplifts can be produced by buoyancy forces uplifts whose width and prominence depends on the
associated with a low density asthenospheric upbulge flexural rigidity.
associated with thinning of the lithosphere without In conclusion, it is emphasized that flank uplifts
stretching. This will produce doming of the rift zone may commonly be the combined effect of a broad
and its flanks; because of the reduced flexural rigid- swell associated with an underlying hot spot, a
ity of the thinned lithosphere, such doming will be shorter wavelength uplift associated with an
shorter in wavelength than that produced by an up- asthenospheric upbulge and footwall flexural uplift
per mantle hot spot beneath lithosphere of normal associated with major faulting. Other mechanisms
thickness. Maximum elevation occurs adjacent to the described above may also contribute.
rift faults as in the elastic upbending models.
Mechanisms of rifting: Geodynamic modeling of continental rift systems 41

2.9. Summary and conclusions Modeling of graben formation normally assumes


a relatively simple rheological structure of the litho-
This chapter has summarized some theoretical
sphere beneath the faulted upper crust. Despite the
studies relevant to the geodynamics of continental
predominance of asymmetrical half grabens, mod-
rifting omitting the petrological intricacies of magma
eling of symmetrical grabens has been useful in dem-
genesis and ascent. Hypotheses for the initiation of
onstrating there is a limit to maximum subsidence
rift structures depend on the primary source of ex-
which depends on the magnitude of the applied ten-
tensional stress which initiates the faulting. The pas-
sion. A finite element model is presented in Figure
sive hypothesis attributes the primary extension to
5 which shows that subsidence enhanced by sedi-
plate interior deviatoric tension of distant origin,
ment loading can reach at least 8 km in response to
such as might be produced by the trench suction plate
the local deviatoric tension resulting from an under-
boundary force, with volcanism and vertical move-
lying low density (hot spot) upper mantle of realis-
ment being a secondary response to lithospheric ex-
tic densities, demonstrating the feasibility of the
tension. The active hypothesis attributes volcanism,
active hypothesis. The flexural cantilever approach
doming and faulting to the influence of an underly-
is a further method of modeling the thermal and flex-
ing hot upper mantle (hot spot) which may be gen-
ural evolution of realistic rift structures which is il-
erated by a plume. Finite element modeling is used
lustrated in Figure 6.
to show that quite a small upper mantle hot spot gives
Flank uplifts are characteristic of most rift zones.
rise to substantial deviatoric tension in the strong
The simplest explanation is in terms of elastic
regions of the lithosphere. The present stress regime,
upbending of the footwall of the rift faults. Other
probably applicable during the Tertiary, indicates
processes which can enhance flank uplifts include
low-lying continental regions are subject to compres-
small scale convection widening the zone of lithos-
sion rather than tension; consequently the active
pheric thinning, upthrust caused by a diapiric
hypothesis may be relevant to the Tertiary rift sys-
upbulge of the asthenosphere and lack of local isos-
tems, whereas the passive hypothesis may have been
tatic equilibrium during lithospheric extension.
dominant during the more tensional stress regime of
the Mesozoic.
Failure of the continental lithosphere in extension
Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Professor
N.J. Kusznir for reading through the manuscript and
has been modeled by the thin sheet approximation
giving a number of helpful suggestions. He also
and also by numerical methods such as finite ele-
kindly provided Figure 2-6.
ment. The thin sheet approximation uses realistic
rheology but cannot include major faults, treating
brittle regions as plastic. Such modeling has dem- 2.10 References
onstrated that strain hardening may affect the litho-
sphere as it progressively thins as a result of cool- Artyushkov, E.V., 1973. Stresses in the lithosphere caused by
ing (if the extension rate is slow) and/or evolving crustal thickness inhomogeneities. J. Geophys. Res., 78:
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cause necking and produces narrow rift zones ing: insights from numerical modeling. Earth Planet. Sci.
whereas slow extension gives rise to widening rift Lett., 105: 430-452.
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stretching as a result of conversion to asthenosphere; Bott, M.H.P., 1992. Modeling the loading stresses associated with
a number of mechanisms have been proposed based active continental rift systems. Tectonophysics, 215:99-115.
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tinental margins. Nature, Phys. Sci., 235: 23-25.
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cation to the continental splitting mechanism. Geophys. J. R. C. Froidevaux (Editors), Composition, structure and dynam-
Astron. Soc., 56:451-459. ics of the lithosphere-asthenosphere system. Geodynamics
Braun, J. and Beaumont, C., 1987. Styles of continental rifting: Series, Am. Geophys. Union, 16:189-203.
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Can. Soc. Pet. Geol., 12: 241-258. tilever simple-shear/pure-shear model of continental lithos-
Buck, W.R., 1986. Small-scale convection induced by passive phere extension: application to Jeanne d'Arc basin, Grand
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Sci. Lett., 77: 362-372. Yielding and B. Freeman (Editors), The Geometry of Nor-
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PART II.

METHODS OF INVESTIGATION:
MULTI-DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
Chapter 3A

Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes


R.F. W e n d l a n d t , R. Altherr, E . - R . N e u m a n n , and W.S. B a l d r i d g e

3A.1. Introduction respect to the timing, composition, spatial distribu-


tion, and volume of igneous products, can limit the
The presence of magmatic rocks, a fundamental application of petrologic techniques to understand-
feature of all continental rift zones, reflects the en- ing rift evolution. For example, the geographic dis-
ergy expended in lithospheric extension and up- tribution and volume of magmatic rocks are obvi-
welling of the asthenosphere. These rocks represent ous and fundamental constraints on the usefulness
products of the crust and upper mantle, hence carry of such rocks for understanding rift processes; in-
unique physical and chemical information that can- formation can be obtained only where such rocks
not be obtained by geophysical techniques. Petro- occur. Similarly, the occurrence of magmatic rocks
logical and geochemical studies of rift-associated is not necessarily uniform in time for any given rift,
igneous rocks can provide information on pressure, hence limiting the ability to view different stages in
temperature, compositions of crust and mantle the evolution of a rift. Alternatively, the variations
sources, and processes involved in magma ascent and in magmatic occurrences may be related to funda-
evolution. Moreover, in contrast to geophysical tech- mental processes in the upper mantle or to structural
niques, which view the present state of the lithos- events that are temporally, spatially, and perhaps,
phere, magmatic rocks of different ages potentially thermally discontinuous. Investigations of rift-re-
record the evolution through time of the mantle and lated igneous rocks, therefore, may provide unique
crust beneath rifts. insight into these processes. In this review, we will
Magmatic products of continental rifts range from briefly summarize the principal petrologic tech-
basaltic through intermediate to silicic in composi- niques that have been applied to igneous rocks in
tion. Since basaltic magmas are derived from the rifts. Our objective is to provide the necessary back-
mantle (the only possibility for deriving basalts from ground for the comparative analysis of rifts that fol-
the crust is by complete melting of pre-existing ba- lows.
s a l t - an unlikely process), these magmatic rocks
are of greatest importance in understanding mantle
processes. More silicic rocks are useful for under- 3A.2. Magma genesis and eruption
standing crustal processes, since these rocks are gen-
erated from and/or acquired their evolved character Magmas can be derived by a restricted number of
within the crust. fundamental melting mechanisms (Wyllie, 1988)
Occurrences of magmatic rocks are variable both which effectively "move" a source material across
within different parts of a given rift and from one its solidus"
rift to another. This variability, which occurs with
48 R.F. Wendlandt et al

Figure 3A-1. Schematic flow diagram of magma generation and modification processes. Compositional characteristics of primary
versus evolved magmas are discussed in the text.

1) increasing temperature at a given depth or 4) mass transport of material to a lower pressure


through prograde burial metamorphism; environment by convective processes.
2) modification of source rock composition (per- Production of large amounts of magma by mecha-
haps by metasomatic processes) resulting in a de- nism (1) is mechanistically unlikely because it re-
crease in solidus temperature below the ambient tem- quires extensive heat transfer by thermal conduction.
perature; Mechanism (2) may be appropriate to reconcile small
3) local pressure decrease; and volumes of melt and melts generated by small de-
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 49

grees of partial melting but may not be a major pro- Johnson, 1991; Wendlandt et al., 1991). For example,
cess of magma genesis because the fraction of melt residual solid material (mantle or crust) is chemi-
that is generated is proportional to the amount of cally and mineralogically modified by depletion in
source rock compositional modification that occurs. volatiles and low melting temperature components
Mechanism 3 cannot account for large volumes of during melting and mixing processes and by enrich-
melt because it requires that either temperatures in ment in mafic mineral accumulations (cumulates)
the source region be very close to solidus tempera- during crystallization. Continental rift volcanism
tures or that pressure decreases be unrealistically will alter the lower crust toward more dense and
large. Mechanism (4) is the most effective way to mafic compositions, which will produce attendant
obtain large volumes of melt and melts requiring changes in crustal velocity structure. The extent of
large degrees of partial melting. magma and host rock modification during magma
A partial melt, representing the fusible or low ascent is variable and may occur continuously or
melting temperature components of a source rock, intermittently when the magma occupies a magma
can be erupted on the surface via any number of chamber at some intermediate level. Figure 3A-1
possible pathways as shown schematically in Fig- arbitrarily depicts two levels of magma stagnation,
ure 3A-1. A magma extracted from its solid residua at the base of the crust and at an upper crustal (shal-
that erupts on the surface virtually unchanged in low) magma chamber. It is well established, how-
composition is termed "primary". There are no gen- ever, that magma chambers can form over the range
erally accepted criteria for identifying primary mag- of crustal conditions. In Oslo rift, for example,
mas, but high Mg/(Mg+Fe) and low SiO2 values are magma chambers existed both in the deep to inter-
often used. Occurrences of primary magmas in rift mediate crust (> 18 km) and at subsurface levels (1-
environments are rare but can provide valuable in- 3 km). Significantly, the proportion of magmas in
formation about P and T of origin and source rock rifts that never make it to the surface is probably
mineralogy if their primary nature can be established. greater than the observed eruptives. The crystalliza-
Most often, magma compositions are "evolved" or tion of these magmas at intermediate depths (above
modified during ascent through the mantle and crust the region of magma genesis) can significantly
by processes involving mixing (ion exchange pro- modify crust composition and physical properties,
cesses, assimilation of wallrock or inclusions, including density, magnetics, seismic velocity, heat
magma mixing), crystallization (crystal settling, flo- flow, etc.
tation, or plating on conduit walls), and fluid sepa-
ration (liquid-fluid, solid-fluid, and liquid-liquid
immiscibilities). Evolved magmas are typically char- 3A.3. Chemistry of igneous rocks
acterized by low Mg/(Mg+Fe) and high SiO2, K20, 3A.3.1. Major, Minor, and Trace Elements
Na20, A1203,and 875r/86Sr. In a given suite of basal-
tic rocks, we generally consider the rock with high- The elements constituting a magmatic rock are
est Mg/(Mg+Fe) ratio to be the most "primitive" divided into major, minor, and trace elements ac-
(least modified during ascent). In most cases it is cording to their abundance. Major elements are those
difficult to determine if the most primitive rock in a elements which make up the bulk of a rock; their
suite represents a primary magma. For the petrolo- concentrations are given in weight percentages of
gist studying rift volcanism, a detailed understand- the respective oxides and a major element occurs
ing of the processes by which a magma is modified normally in quantities above 1 wt%. The major ox-
involves use of major element, trace element, and ides of a magmatic rock typically include SiO2, TiO2,
isotopic compositions, and application of techniques A1203, Fe203, FeO, MnO, MgO, CaO, Na:O, K20,
from both field and experimental petrology. P:Os, H20, and CO:. Minor elements are those ele-
Removal of melts from mantle source regions and ments which occur in magmatic rocks in quantities
their ascent through the crust result in compositional generally < 1 wt% and > 0.1 wt%. Although, for in-
and physical modifications of these regions (e.g., stance, K and P in rift-related basalts may occur in
50 R.F. Wendlandt et al

15

1:5 07 "
.._,11
Fo ,te / Phooo-V \
o 9
x/
+
o 7
Basan le L " L ~ndes,te \ ~ - I
z
S l h : : : i t Y ~ Andesite I DaciLe
------ Basaltic
P i c r o- Basalt andesit~
basalt.

I i I I I I I I ! ! I ! I I I I I I I

57 41 45 49 55 57 61 65 69 75 77
ULTRABASIC I BAS'C IINTERMEDIATEI ACID

Si02 wt%

Figure 3A-2. IUGS chemical classification scheme for volcanic rocks based on total alkali (Na20 and K20) and silica (SiO2)
contents.

quantities well below 1 wt.% and, thus, should be dynamic properties from relevant phase diagrams.
regarded as minor elements, they are traditionally Hence these two major basalt types convey funda-
listed among the major elements. Trace elements are mental information with regard to the conditions of
those that occur at concentrations < 0.1 wt% (1000 their formation in the mantle (for example, see Sec-
ppm). The most important trace elements in igneous tion 3A.5, below). Igneous rock classification used
petrology (from our present view point) are Cs, Rb, in this volume is that of the International Union of
Ba, Th, U, Nb, Ta, Pb, Sr, Zr, Hf, Y, Ni, Cr, Co, Sc, Geological Sciences (lUGS) Subcommission on the
and the rare earth elements (REE, e.g., La, Ce, Nd, Systematics of Igneous Rocks (Streckeisen, 1976,
Sm, Eu, Gd, Tb, Ho, Tm, Yb, and Lu). 1979; Le Bas et al., 1986). A simple chemical clas-
The classification of igneous rocks is based on sification scheme that the IUGS Subcommission rec-
actual (modal) mineralogy, whenever possible. ommends for volcanic rocks, based on total alkali
Where modes cannot be obtained, for example be- (Na20 + K20) and silica (SiO2), is shown in Figure
cause the rock is too fine-grained or glassy, chemi- 3A-2.
cal data are used for classification. For basalts, a
fundamental distinction is made between tholeiitic 3A.3.2. Compatible vs. Incompatible Elements
and alkalic compositions. Tholeiitic basalts are those
which have enough silica to contain the normative Those elements whose ionic radii and charges are
(or theoretically calculated) mineral hypersthene; compatible with the crystal structures of the major
alkalic basalts, by contrast, contain less SiO2, hence igneous minerals and which are, therefore, readily
have normative nepheline or leucite. This distinc- incorporated into these minerals are called "compat-
tion is not arbitrary, but rather is based on thermo- ible". Those elements, alternatively, whose ionic
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 51

radii and charges do not allow their ready incorpo- weathering, including Cs, Ba, F, and CI, and for these
ration into crystal structures are termed "incompat- elements, alteration by weathering is still a poten-
ible". Incompatible elements are often subdivided tial problem.
into two subgroups, high field strength (HFS) and Contamination by assimilation is a widespread
low field strength (LFS), based on ionic radius and phenomenon. Contamination of basaltic rocks by
charge. Elements in the former subgroup (e.g., Zr, crustal materials can best be tested by utilizing cer-
Th, U, Nb, etc.) are characterized by high charge tain element ratios, for example, K/P, Nb/U, and Ti/
and relatively small ionic radius, while those in the Yb, in conjunction with isotope ratios if possible (see
latter (e.g., Rb, Sr, Ba, Cs, etc.) are characterized by below). K and U are enriched and P and Nb are de-
large radius and low valence. When a mafic to inter- pleted in typical crustal materials and their deriva-
mediate composition melt is in contact with an ig- tive melts as compared to uncontaminated mantle-
neous mineral, both HFS and LFS elements will pref- derived melts, making the K/P and Nb/U ratios sen-
erentially concentrate in the melt. This behavior is sitive to assimilation of crustal materials. Crystal
described by a distribution coefficient, D, which is fractionation, on the other hand, would simulta-
defined as the concentration ratio of an element be- neously enrich the melt in K and P or Nb and U, and
tween a mineral assemblage and the melt or fluid. thus not cause significant changes in the respective
These distribution coefficients are dependent on the element ratios. Conclusions reached from Ti/Yb ra-
specific chemical compositions of the phases as well tios are not so straightforward: a low Ti/Yb ratio
as on temperature and pressure. Incompatible and does not necessarily prove that crustal contamina-
compatible elements are characterized by D < 1 and tion took place, but high Ti/Yb is strong evidence
D > 1, respectively. For any specific igneous system against additions of crustal materials (Hofmann et
(i.e., a system with coexisting minerals, melt, and al., 1986; Leeman and Hawkesworth, 1986; Van
possibly, a volatile phase), the elements can be ar- Calsteren et al., 1986; Carlson and Hart, 1987).
ranged in a "compatibility sequence" which means Most of the magmas which reach the surface have
they are arranged in the order of increasing D. been modified by crystal fractionation which can
take place at different levels and, hence, might in-
volve different pressure-dependent mineral assem-
3A.4. Processes of magmatic evolution blages. The chemical composition of the erupted lava
The chemical composition of a particular mag- will reflect this process. For example, a useful indi-
matic rock not only defines its name (Fig. 3A-2) cator of plagioclase fractionation is the presence of
but also reflects its genesis. Some of the important negative Eu anomalies visible in chondrite-normal-
factors which will influence the chemical composi- ized rare earth element (REE) patterns. These anoma-
tion of the final magmatic rock are: the chemical lies result because Eu, among the REE, can exist in
and mineralogical composition of the source rock, two oxidation states, Eu 2 and Eu 3 and plagioclase
the degree of partial melting, the temperature and preferentially incorporates E u 2 f r o m the melt rela-
pressure of melting, the mechanism and extent of tive to Eu 3` and other REE. Independent of pressure,
melt extraction, crystal fractionation, contamination the net effects of crystal fractionation from a basal-
(as, for example by wall rock assimilation), fluid tic magma will always be a decrease in Mg/(Mg+Fe,)
release and/or exchange with country rocks, and and in the contents of other compatible (with respect
weathering (compare Fig. 3A-l). When dealing with to the fractionating mineral assemblage) elements
a magmatic rock, the effects of all these processes similar to Mg, e.g., Ni, Cr, Co. This effect arises
must be taken into account. because the fractionating assemblage will always be
The possibility that the original chemistry of the dominated by mafic minerals, including olivine and
rock has changed by weathering may in most cases pyroxenes. If a suite of chemically different mag-
be ruled out by careful sampling. Some elements, matic rocks is related by crystal fractionation, one
however, are extremely sensitive to the effects of would expect that they define smooth curves in
chemical variation diagrams and that their compo-
52 R.F. Wendlandt et al

% FRACTIONATION

0 20 40 60 80 100

10

CL
..,...

Co

D-0

0.5

1.0 0.8 0.6 0,4 0.2 0


F

Figure 3A-3. Plot of incompatible (D < 1) and compatible (D > I) element behaviors during Rayleigh fractional crystallization. Ct]
Co represents the ratio of an element concentration in a daughter melt, C L, relative to that in the parent melt, Co. F represents the
fraction of melt remaining during crystallization.

sitions can be modeled by subtracting increasing tial stages of crystal fractionation, the contents of
amounts of fractionating mineral assemblages with incompatible elements in basaltic to intermediate
appropriate mineral compositions. These model cal- composition melts are enriched only moderately
culations require knowledge of the modes of frac- (Figure 3A-3). In contrast, compatible element con-
tionating mineral assemblages and of the distribu- centrations are sensitive to small degrees of crystal
tion coefficients. fractionation and will initially decrease rapidly as
Primary magmas derived by partial melting from does the ratio Mg/(Mg+Fe,) (Cox et al., 1979). The
a normal upper mantle source are expected to have approach commonly used in studying suites of re-
Mg/(Mg+Fet) > 65, Ni > 250 ppm, and Cr > 300 lated but compositionally varied rocks is to deter-
ppm. For rocks having undergone crystal fraction- mine the least evolved composition or compositions
ation that are characterized by lower values, a pri- to which more evolved basalts can be related (i.e.,
mary melt composition can be modeled by correct- parental melts). Once a primary, or at least the most
ing for the effects of fractionation. During the ini- primitive, melt composition has been established, it
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 53

is possible to put constraints on problems like the melts can be derived from a presumed source rock.
composition of the mantle source rock, the tempera- Depending on the assumptions regarding source rock
ture and pressure conditions of origin, the degree of composition, particularly the volatile (water, carbon
partial melting, and the mineralogical composition dioxide, etc.) composition and content that may be
of the solid residue. These problems are, however, present, the observed melt compositions and their
related to each other, and cannot be solved indepen- physical conditions of origin may (or may not) be
dently: If we are interested in the degree of partial reasonably analogous to naturally occurring mag-
melting by which a certain primary melt was gener- mas.
ated, it is necessary to make assumptions about the Experiments involving igneous rock compositions
chemical composition of the source and vice versa. (the "inverse" approach) are used to constrain pos-
Numerical methods are used to model the evolu- sible source rock mineralogy and the conditions of
tion of suites of evolved rocks, in which various genesis and evolution for that specific rock compo-
members are related to each other by assimilation, sition. For these types of experiments to be mean-
mixing, and/or fractional crystallization processes ingful, the genetic history of the composition being
(e.g., Langmuir et al., 1977; O'Hara, 1977; DePaolo, studied must be understood, including whether or
1981; O'Hara and Mathews, 1981; Hagen and not the magma in question is primitive or modified
Neumann, 1990). These modeling approaches pro- by low pressure crystal fractionation or crustal as-
vide insight into crustal processes, including esti- similation processes. While the types of information
mates of the extent to which a magma is evolved obtained from the forward and inverse approaches
(i.e., the amount of crystallization that has occurred, differ, the approaches are complementary, and inte-
or the extent of interaction between magma and sur- grating both types of studies provides the best con-
rounding rock during ascent). straints on source conditions.
In principle, a petrogenetic grid can be estab-
lished, based on experimental studies, in which
3A.5. Experimental studies magma composition is related to a unique range of
Another approach to interpreting basalt compo- pressure, temperature, water and carbon dioxide con-
sitions lies in comparison with the large volume of tents, and degree of partial melting conditions in the
data generated from laboratory experiments over a upper mantle. In practice, the rigorous application
period of more than twenty years. Comparison with of this predictive approach is limited by the uncer-
experimental petrology can be used to place limits tainties noted above regarding the compositions of
on the depth and temperature of origin of magma, magma, source rocks, the compositional changes that
mineralogy and mineral chemistry of source rocks may have occurred to erupted rocks during ascent,
as a function of depth, and eruption path processes. and by the incomplete experimental coverage of the
Experiments on a wide range of synthetic and natu- range of magma types that occur in rift environments.
ral materials have permitted the pressure, tempera- Sufficient data exist, however, to constrain condi-
ture, and compositional conditions under which tions of origin of major basalt types, tholeiitic and
melts of various composition are generated or modi- alkalic basalt, that are volumetrically important in
fied to be constrained. Experimental studies cannot, many rifts (e.g., Rio Grande, Baikal, Red Sea).
however, constrain bulk composition of the magma Experiments bearing on the origin of tholeiites
source region. indicate genesis at relatively low pressure (less than
Experimental studies can be conducted using natu- about 15 kbar) by approximately 5 to 30% partial
ral or synthetic starting materials that are represen- melting of a spinel lherzolite source composition
tative of either source rocks or observed igneous rock (Jaques and Green, 1980; Takahashi and Kushiro,
compositions. Experiments on source rocks (the "for- 1983). Figure 3A-4 depicts the composition of liq-
ward" approach) demonstrate possible pressure, tem- uids derived from partial melting of dry lherzolite,
perature, and compositional conditions for which a peridotitic rock consisting of olivine,
orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene, and an aluminous
54 R.F. Wendlandt et al

40

30
I,.
tll
.Q

L 20
o,+cox
arnph+carb+ I
L /.
/_
/,.~q~/ "
f~
U}
I,,,
Q..

10 / ol+cpx+opx+ / /'~

//QZ-THOL
I I I I I t
900 1100 1300 1 ~00
Temperature, oC

Figure 3A-4. Compositions of liquids derived from partial melting of volatile-absent lherzolite (dry solidus) and from lherzolite
containing small amounts of H20 and CO2 (modified from Jaques and Green, 1980, Takahashi and Kushiro, 1983, and Olafsson and
Eggler, 1983). Abbreviations: ol=olivine, cpx=clinopyroxene, opx=orthopyroxene, amph=amphibole, sp=spinel, ga=garnet,
ph=phlogopite, carb=carbonate, AOB=alkali olivine basalt, OL-THOL=olivine tholeiite, THOL=tholeiite, QZ-THOL=quartz
tholeiite, KIMB=kimberlite, CARB=carbonatite, and NEPH=nephelinite.

phase such as spinel or garnet. At low pressure (less less than about 22 kbar, carbonate (dolomite) and
than about 5 kbar) and for low degrees of partial amphibole at intermediate pressures, 17-22 kbar, and
melting, liquid compositions are relatively enriched carbonate (dolomite or magnesite) at pressures
in silica (quartz tholeiitic). With increasing pressure greater than 22 kbar (Fig. 3A-4). A consequence of
up to 15-17 kbar, liquid compositions tend to be- these minerals is that the beginning of melting of
come less siliceous and more magnesian (olivine mantle peridotite and the composition of the first
tholeiitic). Alkali olivine basalts, on the other hand, formed melt are uniquely defined for a given pres-
can be generated by small degrees of melting (less sure, temperature, and bulk composition by melting
than several percent) of anhydrous peridotite at pres- reactions involving these volatile-bearing minerals.
sures in excess of 10 kbar. The mantle solidus as determined by Olafsson and
Alternatively, small amounts of volatiles, gener- Eggler (1983) for a natural spinel lherzolite contain-
ally H20 and CO2, in the magma source region can ing small amounts of H20 and CO2 and melt compo-
promote the generation of alkali basalts at lower tem- sitions generated near this solidus are also summa-
peratures than exhibited by dry melting relations. If rized in Figure 3A--4. With increasing pressure, melts
the mantle contains volatile components, 1-120 and become increasingly alkaline and silica-undersatu-
CO2, as conventional wisdom suggests, then the be- rated. At pressures of about 25-30 kbar, melt com-
ginning of melting is fundamentally different than positions are strongly enriched in dissolved carbon-
for anhydrous conditions. The presence of CO2 and ate and resemble, in some respects, carbonatites. At
H20 stabilizes volatile-bearing minerals at still higher pressures, melts are kimberlitic. Because
subsolidus conditions in mantle compositions. These volatile components will be present in trace amounts
volatile-bearing minerals are amphibole at pressures in mantle source rocks (perhaps several tenths of a
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 55

weight percent), only small volumes of melt will be of overall rift features. The position of silicic, pre-
generated near the volatile-present solidus. The con- sumably crust-derived, melts in a petrogenetic grid
tinuation of melting at higher temperatures will con- is undetermined.
form to the volatile-absent phase relations of
lherzolite.
The genesis of primary alkali basalts, therefore, 3A.6. Isotopes
can result from small degrees of partial melting in- 3A.6.1. Introduction
volving volatiles at reduced temperature or from very
small degrees of partial melting in the absence of Because different regimes of the earth have unique
volatiles at higher temperatures. Tholeiites are the major and trace element compositions, they are also
products of somewhat larger degrees of partial melt- characterized by distinctive isotopic compositions.
ing, where the effects of small amounts of volatile Isotopes of interest for petrological applications in-
components on melting relations are diluted. Experi- clude both radiogenic (i.e., formed by radioactive
mental results predict an overlap in the pressure con- decay processes from another isotope; listed in Table
ditions of origin of these two major basalt types; 3A-l) and stable (or non-radiogenic, i.e., not formed
however, this overlap does not occur when source by decay from any other isotope). Each element has
rock composition (particularly H20 and CO: con- specific geochemical attributes which makes it a
tents) is constrained. Unfortunately, documentation unique tracer of certain petrological processes. In
of basalt composition in rifts rarely reflects the this review, we will limit our discussion to radio-
source rock composition to the necessary degree, and genic isotopic systems.
therefore, assigning conditions of origin to basalt Generally, radioactive decay systems can be used
type is qualitative unless experiments have been in two different ways"
conducted on the specific composition in question. 1) for direct age determination by measuring the
It is important to note, although a detailed dis- ratio of the parent atom over the daughter atom; and
cussion is not warranted, that the volcanic record in 2) as a tracer of chemical differentiation events
rift environments is often characterized by a great in parts of the earth or the solar system based on
diversity of magma types, including many volumetri- different geochemical behaviors of parent and daugh-
cally limited and compositionally extreme types, ter atoms.
although tholeiitic and alkalic basalt types may pre- Better constrained interpretations often result
dominate. The compositionally extreme, typically from the integration of measurements of several iso-
ultra-alkaline, magmas can provide additional infor- topic systems. For example, when 143Nd/144Ndratios
mation on source rock compositions, conditions of are used in conjunction with 87Sr/86Sr, the collective
genesis and chemical/thermal processes in the mantle result is a very powerful tracer of lithosphere and
when appropriate experimental constraints are avail- magma evolution. For a general review of the ba-
able. sics of isotope geochemistry see, for example, Faure
A major gap in our knowledge exists regarding (1986).
the genesis and significance, with respect to rifting With respect to rift studies, the decay of 4~ to
processes, of silicic igneous products. This limita- 4~ is used for dating volcanic rocks whereas the
tion is particularly apparent in those rift environ- other decay systems are mainly important as
ments where extremely large volumes of relatively geochemical tracers. Dating by Rb-Sr, Re-Os, Sm-
silicic material have been emplaced or erupted (e.g., Nd, and U-Pb isotopic systems, which are charac-
the Oslo Rift and the East African Rift). In East Af- terized by very long half-lives, is only possible in
rica, for example, approximately 50,000 cubic km paleorifts where the igneous rocks are old enough
of flood phonolites and about 25,000 cubic km of to have accumulated enough daughter isotopes by
flood trachytes have been erupted (Lippard, 1973; in situ decay (e.g., Midcontinent Rift)
Williams, 1982). These volumes require a thermal
"trigger" that is significant with respect to the scale
56 R.F. Wendlandt et al

TABLE 3A-1
Radiogenic isotopic systems used in geochemistry.

Radioactive parent Decay mechanism Stable daughter Approximate half-life Isotope used for
(Ga) normalization
,, , ,

4~ electron capture, 13 40Ca' 40Ar 1.3 36Ar


87Rb 13 87Sr 48 86Sr
1478m tx 143Nd 106 144Nd
176Lu 176Hf 33 177Hf
187Re 187Os 46 186Os
232Th o,, 13 208pb 14 2~
235U a, 13 207pb 0.7 2~
238U ~, 13 206pb 4.8 2~

3A.6.2. Isotopes as tracers of geochemical differen- ratios, and U and Th contents, and lower Sm/Nd and
tiation Lu/Hf than the primordial mantle. These incompat-
ibility differences have resulted in characteristic iso-
It is assumed that about 4.55 Ga ago the mantle topic signatures for the different reservoirs. For ex-
was undifferentiated and had homogeneous isotope ample, the upper crust, which is granitic in compo-
ratios. The initial isotope ratios as well as the re- sition and is believed to have formed through a se-
spective parent/daughter element ratios of this so- ries of melting processes, is enriched in Rb, U and
called primordial mantle are estimated from cosmo- Th compared to the lower crust and mantle and is
chemical and geochemical evidence. This assump- also highly enriched in 87Sr (formed by decay from
tion allows an estimate of the isotopic composition 86Rb) relative to total Sr. Similarly the crust is en-
of the present-day silicate earth (Faure, 1986; riched in 2~ and 2~ (formed by decay of U) and
DePaolo, 1988). Most geochemists agree on the as- 2~ (formed by decay of Th) and have relatively
sumption that the average upper mantle is depleted high 2~176 2~176 and 2~176 ratios.
in incompatible elements as compared to the primor- Parts of the mantle which have been involved in
dial mantle. This depletion is generally attributed to partial melting are relatively depleted in Rb, U, and
the formation of the continental crust. Independent Th and, therefore, have low Sr and Pb isotopic ra-
mass balances between continental crust, depleted tios compared to crustal rocks (e.g. Zartman and Doe,
mantle, and primordial mantle based on isotopic and 1981).
trace element data, indicate that about one-half of For many years it was assumed that oceanic and
the primordial mantle (or perhaps a bit less) has been continental basalts were derived from mixed sources
differentiated to form continental crust and depleted whereby primordial mantle was added to depleted
mantle ( O ' N i o n s et al., 1979; Jacobsen and upper mantle from below via mantle plumes. It is
Wasserburg, 1979; DePaolo, 1980; Davies, 1981; now clear, however, that there is no significant di-
Allegre et al., 1983; Hofmann et al., 1986). Hence, rect contribution of the primordial mantle to basal-
there should be at least two different chemical and tic magmas (Hofmann et al., 1986). Hence, the en-
isotopic mantle reservoirs. riched isotopic signatures shown by a considerable
Due to differences in incompatibility of the par- portion of continental basalts have to be explained
ent and daughter elements, the average depleted by more sophisticated models, including:
mantle should have lower Rb/Sr and Re/Os ratios, 1) re-enrichment of formerly depleted mantle oc-
but higher Sm/Nd and Lu/Hf ratios than the primor- curring by recycling of oceanic crust (altered basalts,
dial mantle. In contrast, the average continental crust sediments) via subduction;
should be characterized by higher Rb/Sr and Re/Os
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 57

2) isolation of subcontinental lithospheric mantle still show low Sr and high Nd isotope ratios that are
from mantle convection for long periods of time with normally attributed to depleted sources. Such
enrichment by melt additions from the asthenosphere decoupling of trace element and isotopic features
having different parent/daughter element ratios; and may indicate that the enrichment event took place
3) small additions from the lower primordial recently.
mantle, which may not have been completely iso-
lated through time, into the upper, more depleted 3A.6.4. Isotopes as tracers o f m a g m a sources
mantle.
As all these processes may have been active dur- The isotopic compositions of magmatic rocks re-
ing most of the earth's history, a heterogeneous up- flect the composition of their source regions and of
per mantle has resulted despite the tendency for ho- any subsequent material added either as melt (such
mogenization by mantle convection. This view is as magma mixing) or as solid (such as by crustal
substantiated by recent findings on orogenic contamination). For isotopes of petrologic interest
lherzolites and on samples of mantle material (xe- heavier than oxygen (i.e., for the radiogenic iso-
noliths) brought up by basalts. It is now accepted topes), the isotopes are not fractionated by melting
that the lithospheric mantle is heterogeneous at both or crystallization processes. In principle, therefore,
a small and a large scale and there is also evidence the isotopic ratio of an uncontaminated melt reflects
for large scale heterogeneity in the asthenosphere the isotopic ratio of its source region(s). Similarly,
(e.g., Zindler and Hart, 1986; Hart, 1988). At least 5 crustal reservoirs can be characterized by either di-
isotopic compositions have been identified in basalts rect sampling of crustal rocks or by analysis of melts
and mantle-derived xenoliths (i.e. DMM, PREMA, generated from these regions. The isotopic compo-
EM I, EM II, HIMU; see Hart, 1988, for discussion). sitions of evolved melts are also informative: isoto-
An even more complex history has certainly taken pic ratios are sensitive to processes such as mixing
place within the continental crust which shows sig- of magmas (assuming different isotopic composi-
nificantly larger ranges in parent/daughter and iso- tions) and crustal contamination and, thus, are im-
tope ratios than the mantle. High grade metamor- portant for modeling of evolution processes.
phic events involving dehydration and partial melt- A major issue of continental rifting is the prob-
ing will cause transport of incompatible elements lem of asthenosphere-lithosphere dynamics or, more
such as Rb, U and Th with fluids and melts from the specifically, the way in which the lithospheric mantle
lower to the upper crust. An old lower crust which is thinned. The problem is related to the relative con-
has been subjected to repeated high-grade metamor- tributions of asthenosphere or pre-rift lithosphere as
phic events will, therefore, have lower S7Sr/S6Sr, magma sources. If extension by shear is the domi-
2~176 2~176 and 2~176 than the up- nant process, the subcontinental lithosphere is physi-
per crust. cally replaced by asthenospheric material and the
pre-rift lithospheric will perhaps not contribute to
3A.6.3. "Enriched" versus "Depleted" sources basaltic magmatism except, perhaps, by contamina-
tion. If, however, lithospheric thinning is caused by
Terms like "enriched" and "depleted", which are thermal erosion and/or conversion to asthenosphere,
used to characterize the ability of a certain mantle basaltic magmas could be derived exclusively from
source rock to give rise to basaltic melt upon partial the pre-rift lithosphere or by mixing between
melting, are still in use but their meaning has be- asthenospheric and pre-rift lithospheric material. If
come vague. We know that the mantle can no longer the subcontinental lithospheric mantle represents a
be modeled as a simple two-component mixture (ba- distinct isotopic reservoir contributing to basaltic
saltic magma and residual phases). It is now neces- magmas, then one would expect some systematic
sary to specify the components in which the mantle variations in magma compositions with tectonic set-
is depleted or enriched. For example, a lherzolitic ting (i.e. varying with thickness of underlying litho-
mantle can be enriched in basaltic components but
58 R.F. Wendlandt et al

spheric mantle as, for example, rift versus shoulder) way to the surface. These xenoliths are valuable as
or with temporal evolution (i.e. with progressive direct samples of subsurface materials and constrain
thinning of the lithosphere). the nature and evolution of the sampled portions of
In general, the following different mantle sources the lithosphere. Studies of xenoliths can provide in-
can be involved in the genesis of rift-related basalts: formation about lithosphere composition (mineral-
asthenosphere, sub-crustal lithosphere (including ogical and chemical), chemical processes (fluid-rock
former lithosphere converted thermally to astheno- interactions, enrichment and metasomatism events,
sphere), and plumes from the lower portions of the mineral equilibration, melt generation), radiometric
mantle. Whereas there is general agreement on the and model ages, and physical processes (mantle rhe-
average isotopic signature of the asthenosphere, any ology, shearing) occurring at depth. Furthermore, for
further assignment of certain signatures to either pre- selected coexisting mineral assemblages in xenoliths,
rift lithosphere or plume reservoirs is ambiguous. pressure and temperature of equilibration may be
The continental lithospheric mantle, for example, has estimated from mineral chemistry. These experimen-
been assumed to be either depleted or enriched (re- tally calibrated geothermometers and geobarometers
viewed by McDonough, 1990). Only in rifts where are potentially powerful constraints on magma
mantle-derived xenoliths are abundant can the source depth and temperature (minimum estimates,
chemical and isotopic composition of the lithosphere of course). Given sufficient number and composi-
be assessed. These studies may then allow certain tionally (mineralogically) appropriate nodules for
isotopic characteristics of basalts to be identified as analysis, a geotherm (a "trail of magma ascent") and
being derived from either a lithospheric or a crustal-mantle stratigraphy can be reconstructed.
asthenospheric source (e.g., Menzies and Geothermometers and geobarometers can be of
Hawkesworth, 1987). several types as discussed by Bohlen and Lindsley
A potential limitation to the use of isotopes as (1987). These types include univariant equilibria,
tracers takes into account the heterogeneity of the multivariant equilibria in which solid solution in one
mantle. This limitation centers on the possibility that or more phases results in a mineral assemblage be-
the isotopic composition of a primary basaltic melt ing stable over a broad range of pressure and tem-
depends not only on the average composition of its perature, exchange reactions involving the distribu-
mantle source but also on the degree of partial melt- tion of two elements (e.g., Fe-Mg, K-Na, Ca-Mg)
ing. Preferential tapping of enriched low melting between coexisting mineral phases, solvus equilib-
temperature plumes (Sleep, 1984) may occur at low ria in which mineral compositional changes across
degrees of partial melting (less than 10%) resulting a miscibility gap are temperature dependent, and
in a melt isotopic signature that does not necessar- mineral saturation surfaces in melts. Reliable tem-
ily correspond to the average isotopic composition perature and pressure estimations require previous
of that portion of the mantle which was involved in experimental calibration, knowledge of phase com-
the partial melting event. If this controversial mecha- positions, and solution models for non-ideal solid
nism accurately describes partial melting in the solution in minerals. Bohlen and Lindsley empha-
mantle, then it may be impossible to distinguish iso- size that inadequate solution modeling is the most
topically between enriched blobs in the asthenos- important source of uncertainty in the application
phere and/or lithosphere and contributions from of thermobarometers.
mantle plumes. At present, geothermometers are best defined for
lherzolitic mineral assemblages including olivine-
orthopyroxe ne-c lin opyrox en e+/-spi ne l+/-g arn e t.
3A.7. Xenoliths and thermobarometry
The most commonly used geothermometers are
Rapidly erupted magmas, exclusively alkaline based either on chemical exchange reactions or on
basaltic varieties, may entrain samples of the mantle solvus equilibria.
and lower crust through which they pass on their
Petrology, geochemistry, isotopes 59

Geobarometers are typically based on experimen- 2. Unraveling contamination and mineral


tally calibrated changes in the aluminum content of reequilibration associated with nodule incorporation
pyroxene that coexists with either plagioclase or alu- in melt and transport to the surface; and
minous garnet, a multivariant equilibria type of 3. Uncertainties associated with thermobarometer
geobarometer. Since the aluminum solubility in py- calibration, including both experiments and solution
roxene is a function of both pressure and tempera- models and with operator application of calibrations.
ture, an independent estimation of temperature is a Despite these limitations, however,
prerequisite for estimating pressure. Until recently, thermobarometry studies can provide important con-
reliable calibrations of A1 solubility in pyroxene straints for geophysical and dynamic models for
existed only for garnet-bearing assemblages. Recent continental rift structure and evolution.
experimental work, however, has resulted in cali-
bration of a new barometer based on Ca solubility
in olivine that can also be used for spinel lherzolites 3A.8. References
(Kohler and Brey, 1990). This barometer is config- Allegre, C. J., Hart, S.R., and Minster, J.E, 1983. Chemical struc-
ured to be used with a recalibration of the two-py- ture and evolution of the mantle and continents determined
roxene geothermometer (solvus equilibria; Brey and by inversion of Nd and Sr isotopic data, I. Theoretical mod-
Kohler, 1990). els; II. Numerical experiments. Earth Planet Sci. Lett., 66:
177-190, 191-213.
Reequilibration of mineral compositions in xeno- Bohlen, S.R. and Lindsley, D.H., 1987. Thermometry and ba-
liths after entrainment in melt and during ascent to rometry of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Ann. Rev. Earth
the surface poses both advantages and disadvantages Planet. Sci., 15: 397-420.
for the interpretation of temperature and pressure. Brey, G.P. and Kohler, T.P., 1990. Geothermobarometry in natu-
If compositional reequilibration is extensive, it may ral four-phase lherzolites, part II. New thermobarometers and
practical assessment of existing thermobarometers. J. Petrol.,
preclude reliable estimation of intensive parameters. 31: 1353-1378.
Alternatively, partial reequilibration may provide Carlson, R.W. and Hart, W.K., 1987. Crustal genesis on the Or-
information about dynamic changes in the state of egon Plateau. J. Geophys. Res., 92: 6191-6206.
the lithosphere. Core-rim thermobarometry of gar- Cox, K.G, Bell, J.D., and Pankhurst, R.J., 1979. Interpretation
net-bearing lherzolites and pyroxenites in the Qua- of Igneous Rocks. London, Allen and Unwin.
Davies, G.E, 1981. Earth's neodymium budget and structure and
ternary eruptive centers of eastern Kenya has been
evolution of mantle. Nature, 290:208-213.
interpreted to document the rapid ascent of lithos- DePaolo, D. J., 1980. Crustal growth and mantle evolution: In-
phere to pressures greater than approximately 10 ferences from models of element transport and Nd and Sr
kbar (32 km) with a minor corresponding decrease isotopes. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 44:1185-1196.
in temperature (about 50~ Henjes-Kunst, 1989; DePaolo, D.J., 1981. Trace element and isotopic effects of com-
bined wallrock assimilation and fractional crystallization.
Henjes-Kunst and Altherr, 1992). Uplift was suffi- Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 53: 189-202.
ciently rapid that compositional equilibrium was not DePaolo, D.J., 1988. Neodymium Isotope Geochemistry. An In-
attained in the xenoliths. This lithospheric ascent cor- troduction. Springer-Verlag, New York, 187 pp.
responds to a change in geothermal gradient from Faure, G., 1986. Principles of Isotope Geology. John Wiley and
9~ to 13~ (or 60 mW/m 2 to 90mW/m2). Sons, Inc., Second Edition, 589 pp.
Hagen, H., and Neumann, E.-R., 1990. Modeling of trace-ele-
The limitations to obtaining and using
ment distribution in magma chambers using open-system
thermobarometric estimations include: models. Computers and Geosciences, 16: 549-586.
1. Rare occurrences of nodules in certain rift en- Hart, S.K., 1988. Heterogeneous mantle domains: signatures,
vironments that may be related to restrictions in genesis and mixing chronologies. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 90:
magma age, location, or volume, or to a lack of com- 273-296.
Henjes-Kunst, F., 1989. Mantle xenoliths in Quaternary basalts
positionally suitable host magmas (primary alkaline
from East Africa: Evidences of old lithospheric structures in
volcanics); a young continental rift? Symposium on the Afro-Arabian
Rift System, March 6-8, 1989, Karlsruhe, F.R.G., 51-52.
60 R.F. Wendlandt et al

Henjes-Kunst, F., and R. Altherr, 1992. Metamorphic petrology O'Hara, M.J. and Mathews, R.E., 1981. Geochemical evolution
of xenoliths from Kenya and Northern Tanzania and implica- in an advancing, periodically replenished, periodically tapped,
tions for geotherms and lithospheric structures. J. Petrol., 33: continuously fractionated magma chamber. J. Geol. Soc.
1125-1156. Lond., 138: 237-277.
Hofmann, A. W., Jochum, K.P., Seufert, M. and White, W.M., Olafsson, M. and Eggler, D.H., 1983. Phase relations of amphib-
1986. Nb and Pb in oceanic basalts: new constraints on mantle ole, amphibole-carbonate, and phlogopite-carbonate peridot-
evolution. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 79: 33-45. ite- petrologic constraints on the asthenosphere. Earth Planet.
Jacobsen, S.B., and Wasserburg, G.J., 1979. The mean age of Sci. Lett., 64: 305-315.
mantle and crustal reservoirs. J. Geophys. Res., 84: 7411- O'Nions, R.K., Evensen, N.M. and Hamilton, P.J., 1979.
7427. Geochemical modeling of mantle differentiation and crustal
Jaques, A.L. and Green, D.H., 1980. Anhydrous melting of peri- growth. J. Geophys. Res., 84: 6091-6101.
dotite at 0-15 kb pressure and the genesis of tholeiitic basalts. Sleep, N.H., 1984. Tapping of magmas from ubiquitous mantle
Contrib. Mineral. Petrol., 73: 287-310. heterogeneities: an alternative model to mantle plumes? J.
Johnson, C.M., 1991. Large-scale crust formation and lithosphere Geophys. Res., 89:10029-10041.
modification beneath middle to late Cenozoic calderas and Streckeisen, A., 1976. To each plutonic rock its proper name.
volcanic fields, western North America. J. Geophys. Res., Earth-Sci. Rev., 12: 1-33.
96: 13485-13507. Streckeisen, A., 1979. Classification and nomenclature of vol-
Kohler, T.P. and Brey, G.P., 1990. Calcium exchange between canic rocks, lamprophyres, carbonatites, and melilitic rocks:
olivine and clinopyroxene for natural peridotites from 2 to recommendations and suggestions of the lUGS Subcommis-
60 kb with applications. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 54: sion on the Systematics of Igneous Rocks. Geology, 7: 331-
2375-2388. 335.
Langmuir, C.H., Vocke, R.D., Hanson, G.N., and Hart, S.R., Takahashi, E. and Kushiro, I., 1983. Melting of a dry peridotite
1977. A general mixing equation applied to the petrogenesis at high pressures and basalt magma genesis. Am. Mineral.,
of basalts from Iceland and Reykjanes Ridge. Earth Planet. 68: 859-879.
Sci. Lett. 37: 380-392. Van Calsteren, P.W.C., Harris, N.B.W., Hawkesworth, C.J.,
Le Bas, M.J., Le Maitre, R.W., Streckeisen, A., and Zanettin, B., Menzies, M.A. and Rogers, N.W., 1986. Xenoliths from
1986. A chemical classification of volcanic rocks based on southern Africa: a perspective on the lower crust. In: The
the total alkali-silica diagram. J. Petrol., 27: 745-750. Nature of the Lower Continental Crust, J.B. Dawson, D.A.
Leeman, W.P. and Hawkesworth, C.J., 1986. Open magma sys- Carswell, J. Hall, and K.H. Wedepohl (Eds.), Blackwell Sci-
tems: trace element and isotopic constraints. J. Geophys. Res. entific, Oxford, pp. 351-362.
91, 5901-5912. Wendlandt, R.F., Baldridge, W.S., and Neumann, E.-R., 1991.
Lippard, S.J., 1973. The petrology of phonolites from the Kenya Modification of lower crust by continental rift magmatism.
Rift. Lithos, 6: 217-234. Geophys. Res. Lett., 18: 1759-1762.
McDonough, W.F., 1990. Constraints on the composition of the Williams, L.A.J., 1982. Physical aspects of magmatism in con-
continental lithospheric mantle. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 101: tinental rifts. In, Continental and Oceanic Rifts, ed., G.
1-18. Palmason, Geodynamics Series Vol. 8, Published by AGU
Menzies, M.A. and Hawkesworth, C.J., 1987. Upper mantle pro- and GSA, 193-222.
cesses and compositions. In, Mantle Xenoliths, (ed. P.H. Wyllie, P.J., 1988. Solidus curves, mantle plumes, and magma
Nixon), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 725-738. generation beneath Hawaii. J. Geophys. Res., 93: 4171-4181.
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Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 14: 493-571.
Chapter 3B

Seismic techniques
L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. M u e l l e r , a n d C. P r o d e h l

3B.1. Introduction subsurface geometry of basins and faults, magnitudes


of velocity anomalies in the crust and upper mantle,
Seismic techniques have been of great value in and the nature of earthquake activity.
studies of continental rifts because they provide a In seismology, resolution is related to both data
relatively detailed image of lithospheric structure, quality and physical laws. The quality of a data set
including indications of seismic velocities which can is usually considered to be a function of the strength
be used to infer crust and upper mantle characteris- of the signal relative to noise (usually expressed as
tics such as composition and temperature. Ideally, signal-to-noise ratio) and the number and/or density
modern seismic studies are capable of excellent reso- of measurements which is primarily dependent on
lution to depths of several tens of kilometers. How- the numbers of sources and receivers and their rela-
ever, hundreds of instruments and a coordinated pro- tive spacing. Examples of the importance of the
gram of near-vertical angle of incidence (i.e., reflec- quantity of measurements would be the need for re-
tion), wide angle (i.e., refraction), and passive (i.e., dundant measurements in teleseismic and surface
earthquake) recordings are required to accurately wave studies and the need for closely-spaced read-
resolve all significant structural and velocity anoma- ings in reflection and refraction studies. Up to a
lies from the surface to depths of greater than 100 point, the more data available, the higher the reso-
km in the upper mantle. Therefore, because of limi- lution.
tations in instrumentation and funding, no truly com- However, physical laws limit the resolution of
plete lithospheric scale seismic study has been un- even a perfect data set. The Earth strongly attenu-
dertaken. Less ambitious programs have provided ates high frequencies so that signals which penetrate
and will continue to provide valuable but somewhat deeply into the Earth will be relatively low frequency
lower resolution information. in nature. The effects of this phenomena can be dem-
Resolution is a major consideration when discuss- onstrated using reflection and refraction signals. An
ing seismic data. However, there is such a variety of estimate of resolution can be obtained by applying
seismic techniques that general statements about the equation V = fA. (velocity = frequency x wave-
resolution are difficult. As a practical matter, reso- length). A typical crustal velocity is 6 km/s, and a
lution refers to the ability of a measurement to de- typical peak frequency of a signal penetrating deeply
tect the presence of some feature and the accuracy into the crust is 10 Hz, resulting in a typical (peak
to which this feature can be located. In rift zones, frequency) wavelength of 0.6 km. The rule of thumb
seismic measurements are often called upon to de- often used is that features smaller than 1/4 of a wave-
termine such things as the thickness of the crust, length cannot be detected. Thus, such data could not
detect features smaller than about 150 m in thick-
62 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

ness. In crustal reflection and refraction studies, sig- caused by high temperatures) associated with the
nals that penetrate to the Moho have peak frequen- rifting process. We begin with a brief description of
cies of about 5 to 20 Hz resulting in theoretical reso- seismic methods which have been used in rift stud-
lution limits of 300 to 75 m. These estimates are in ies, followed by a review of seismic properties of
fact optimistic (the resolution estimates can be rocks emphasizing effects of temperature. Finally,
thought of as measures of the ability to detect and we utilize the extensive crustal velocity data which
provide relative depth control on fine velocity struc- are available for North America to identify charac-
ture), and it would be hard to argue that any existing teristic crustal properties associated with continen-
data in continental areas can resolve the absolute tal rifts. Various seismic methods which have been
position of the Moho to better than +1 km. applied to studies of the crust and upper mantle are
In this chapter, we consider the capabilities and illustrated schematically in Figure 3B-1. A compari-
limitations of seismic methods and seismic data in son of the main characteristics of these methods is
studies of continental rifts. Substantial structural and shown in Table 3B-1 and the principal advantages
velocity variations are expected, and are commonly and limitations of the methods are listed in Table
observed, in continental rifts because of the effects 3B-2. Recently, Mooney (1989) has also provided a
of extension (faulting, basin formation, crustal thin- useful review of seismic methods for determining
ning), magmatism (intrusion and volcanism), and crust and upper mantle structure.
high heat flow (reduction in seismic velocities

Fig. 3B-1. Schematic diagrams illustrating various seismic methods which are commonly used to study Earth's crust and uppermost
mantle. These diagrams illustrate seismic wave propagation and associated data types for 2-D models, although the methods can
also be applied to 3-D velocity structures, x = distance, z = depth, V = velocity. A. Near-vertical incidence reflection raypaths.
Multiple sources and receivers are used to record large numbers of seismograms which are processed to produce a seismic reflection
record section which is an approximate image of subsurface structure. Reflections are produced by interfaces. B. Raypaths for
refracted (head wave) arrivals which provide travel-time curves which are interpreted to derive velocity and thickness values of the
layers. Homogeneous velocities and plane layers represent the simplest case, although the method can resolve velocity gradients and
can recognize dipping layers if more than one source location or recording direction is available. C. Two-dimensional velocity
variations and representative raypaths from multiple sources to receivers which provide travel-time information necessary to derive
a detailed image of velocity variations by simultaneous inversion (e.g., Zelt and Smith, 1992; Hughes and Luetgert, 1992; Braile et
al., 1994). D. Representative seismic raypaths for teleseismic arrivals with various azimuths and (generally near-vertical) angles of
incidence. Travel-time differences (residuals or delay times) can be used to determine velocity variations (V) within blocks or other
appropriately-defined regions within the model. E. Raypaths, earthquake source locations, and receivers (squares on surface)
utilized in travel-time inversion methods which simultaneously calculate 2-D (or 3-D) velocity models and earthquake location
(latitude, longitude, depth) parameters and origin time. Compressional, shear or both compressional and shear arrivals can be
included. Because of the large number of unknown parameters (velocity, location and origin time variables) and the need for
adequate raypath coverage, large numbers of stations and earthquake sources are necessary for an effective inversion. F. Schematic
diagram illustrating the various raypaths (multiples and converted phases; P = compressional waves, S = shear waves) and resulting
seismogram at the surface receiver (square) recorded from a single teleseismic source traveling at near-vertical angle of incidence
upwards through a layered velocity model generally corresponding to the Earth's crust. Waveform modeling which compares the
observed seismogram with a theoretical seismogram calculated from the model and a source wavelet is used to adjust model (and
source) parameters until a satisfactory match of observed and theoretical seismograms is achieved. G. Schematic diagram illustrat-
ing surface wave propagation through a velocity model. Plane wavefronts (vertical dashed lines) represent lines of equal phase for
surface waves propagating from the source. Amplitudes of the surface waves decrease with depth. Surface wave propagation is
dispersive; phase or group velocities vary with wave period. Amplitude versus depth curves (amplitudes relative to the vertical solid
line) are shown for two periods (LP = long period, SP = short period) for two modes (F = fundamental mode, 1st = first higher
mode) of surface wave propagation. Seismograms display dispersed surface wave signals for propagation through the (two-station)
seismograph array. Modeling of the dispersion properties of the seismograms using group and phase velocity analysis (Dziewonski
and Hales, 1972; Kovach, 1978) or waveform modeling (Lemer-Lam and Jordan, 1983; Sneider, 1988; Nakanishi, 1993) is used to
determine the 2-D or 3-D variation in seismic velocities (primarily shear-wave velocities) between and beneath the stations or
seismograph array. H. Earthquake location and mechanism (fault plane solution) deduced from seismogram recordings from arrays
or networks of seismograph stations (squares). Observations are used to infer 3-D fault geometry, earthquake slip directions and
stress directions. Arrows indicate relative stresses indicated by the (vertical plane) focal sphere diagram.
Seismic techniques 63
Table 3B-1.
Comparison of Typical Characteristics of Seismic Techniques for Crustal Velocity
Structure Studies (modified from Braile and Chiang, 1986)

Typlcal Angle d
Station Frequency / Incidence / Model Useful
Method Spacing Wavelength Phase Velocity Processing Interpretation Complexity References
Reflection Profiling 0.03- 10-30 H z / < |06 ] statlcs, velochy analysls, 2D, some 3D Brown, 1986;
0.20 km 0.2-0.6 km > 10 km/s CDP stack, geologic Klemperer and Luetgert, 1987;
deconvolution, interpretation of Matthews and Smith, 1987;
r~ migration record section Yilmaz, 1987;
~
Mooney, 1989
Refraction, Wide- 0.2-10 km 1-20/-Iz ] zl~-~106 ] statlcs, travel-tlme, 1D and 2D Muener and Landisman,
Angle Reflection 0.3-6 km 5-10 km/s bandpass amplitude and 1971; Braile and Smith,
Profiling filtering synthetic 1975; Cerveny et al.,
seismogram 1977; Mooney, 1989;
modeling Zelt and Smith, 1992;
Nowack and Braile, 1993
Teleseismic Delay 10-50 km 0.2-2 Hz / < 20~ / statics, cross travel -time 2D for delay Jordan and Frazer, 1975;
Times, Receiver 3-30 km > 20 km/s correlation, inversion, ;times, Aki, Christoffersson and
I
Functions, Converted deconvolution transfer primarily 1D Husebye, 1976;
Phases function for receiver Taylor and Owens,
modeling and functions and 1984; Owens, Zandt
inversion converted and Taylor, 1984; Davis
phases et al., 1993; Iyer and
Hirahara, 1993
Local and Regional 9 10-100km ! 2-50 Hz / " 00-90~ / station hypocenter, 1D, 2 D or 3 D Crosson, 1976;
Earthquakes 0.1-3 km 2-00 km/s corrections, origin time Benz and Smith, 1984;
filtering, phase and velocity Kissling, 1988; Iyer and
identification model inversion Hirahara, 1993; Thurber, 1993
~uface Wave 50-1000 km 0.02-0.2 Hz/ 90~ frequency- modeling and 1D, 2D or 3D Dziewonski and Hales,
Dispersion 15-200 km 2-4 km/s time analysis, inversion of with regionali- 1972; Kovach, 1978;
group and dispersion zation schemes Lemer-Lam and Jordan,
phase velocity curves, wave- 1983; Sneider, 1988;
determination form modeling Nakanishi, 1993
Seismic techniques 65

Table 3 B - 2 .
S u m m a r y o f Advantages and Limitations of Seismic Techniques for Crustal Velocity Structure Studies (modified from
Braile and Chiang, 1986)
i i |

Method Principal Limitations Principal A d v a n t a g e s


Reflection Profiling - Narrow frequency band - High resolution
- Data quality dependent on near-surface - 2-D and 3D structural interpretation
conditions - Processing and data redundancy can
- Limited resolution of deep crustal velocities enhance S/N
- Processing requires velocity information - Complete coverage possible
- Dependent on presence of relatively - Provides a direct image of the
sharp interfaces subsurface
- Coherent or random noise may
mask true reflections
Refraction, Wide-Angle - Relatively large station spacing - Relatively broadband signal
Reflection Profiling - Horizontal averaging of velocity structure - Good S/N possible due to refl./refr.
- Complex modeling required for coefficients and use of first arrivals
2-D or 3-D interpretation - Good velocity information determined
- Low resolution because of frequency of - Data from deep crust and upper
sources and horizontal averaging mantle generally obtained
- Both P and S velocities may be determined
- Travel-time, amplitude and waveform modeling
using synthetic seismograms
Teleseismic Delay Times, - Relatively large station spacing and - Single station or small array technique
Receiver Functions, long wavelength limit resolution - Both P and S velocities may be determined
Converted Phases - Limited azimuth and distance - 2-D or 3-D interpretations possible
ranges to sources with multiple stations
- Ambiguity of interpretation caused - Deep crust and upper mantle
by near-vertical raypaths velocities may be determined
- Effect of lateral heterogeneity for to depths of 200 km or more
receiver function studies - Earthquake sources, relatively
easy field operation
- Waveform modeling using synthetic
seismograms
Local and Regional - Large number of unknowns - velocity - 2-D and 3-D interpretation
Earthquakes model, hypocenter locations, origin time - Both P and S velocities may be determined
- Spatial distribution of earthquakes may not - Passive technique, network operation
produce good raypath coverage - Large volume of data available
- Large volume of data required
- Depth range of model dependent
on maximum depth of events
i

Surface Wave - Large source required - Large depth of penetration


Dispersion - Station locations not optimum - Not dependent on existence of
- Low resolution because of long interfaces in velocity
wavelengths, large station - Can detect low velocity layers
spacing, and horizontal averaging - Cost-effective technique
- 1-D average model between stations - Sensitive to S-wave velocity structure
- 2-D and 3-D interpretation possible
66 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Fig. 3B-2. Seismic reflection record section from the Kaisut Basin of Kenya (from Bosworth and Morely, 1994). TWTT = two-way
travel-time. A. Seismic reflection record section. B. Interpreted line drawing of A showing inferred unconformities (numbers 1-4),
rift-related (reflections between the basement and unconformity number 4) and post-rift sedimentary rocks, and basement.

An additional characteristic of modern seismic multiple types of data for the same location are be-
studies is that, increasingly, multiple methods and ing utilized in an effort to improve resolution, de-
Seismic techniques 67

crease the ambiguity of interpretations, and provide sibly misleading images. Furthermore, velocity de-
information on additional rock properties such as termination and subsequent conversion of two-way
shear-wave velocity, Poisson's ratio, density, elec- times to depth become more difficult with increas-
trical properties, seismic attenuation and anisotropy. ing depth because of the near-vertical incidence of
For example, results of coincident refraction and raypaths in reflection data acquisition.
reflection studies have recently been presented by Two main factors tend to pose potential problems
Mooney and Brocher (1987), Holbrook (1990), to data quality in reflection surveys. As a practical
Holbrook et al. (1991, 1992a) and Levander et al. matter, data quality subjectively refers to the clarity
(1994). The East African rift system has recently of the image presented in the record section. The
been extensively studied utilizing multiple seismic first of these factors is surprisingly simple and is
and other geophysical and geological methods the large variation in the near-surface seismic ve-
(Prodehl et al., 1994; Braile et al., chapter 5 of this locity. Compensation for these variations is called
volume) resulting in a substantially-improved un- the static correction which attempts to make small
derstanding of the late-Cenozoic rifting event and time shifts in the data in order to improve alignments
its effects in east Africa. during processing. The other problematical factor is
the presence of complicated subsurface geometries
and velocity heterogeneity. Migration (e.g., Yilmaz,
3B.2. Reflection Profiling 1987) is a processing procedure whose goal is to
During the past 15 years, seismic reflection pro- produce record sections in which distortions caused
filing has received a great deal of attention in litho- by structure are unraveled. Accurate migration re-
spheric studies. This technique has been the primary quires a knowledge of velocity, and velocity deter-
exploration tool of the oil industry for about 50 years. minations require reasonable knowledge of geom-
However, reflection data (especially on land) have etry (i.e., an accurate migration).
become widely available in the academic commu- Crustal reflection profiling in rift zones has been
nity only since about 1980. A classical reflection very successful in delineating shallow (0 to --, 20 km)
survey is designed to record only near-vertical, P- fault structures, the geometries of rift basins, includ-
wave reflections (Fig. 3B-1A). Thus, the distance ing grabens, associated with extension, and seismic
from the source to the most distant receiver is a frac- characteristics of the lower crust and the crust-mantle
tion of the intended maximum depth of penetration. boundary or Moho (Hale and Thompson, 1982;
The source is often Vibroseis, a truck-mounted ap- Braile and Chiang, 1986; Jarchow and Thompson,
paratus which vibrates over a carefully controlled 1989; Mooney and Meissner, 1992). A summary of
sweep of frequencies, rather than an explosion. The crustal studies using deep reflection profiling is con-
popularity of the reflection profiling technique is tained in Brown (1986). Examples of crustal reflec-
based on the fact that, in the best of circumstances, tion profiling in rift zones include experiments in
the resulting record sections look like vertical cross- the Basin and Range province (Allmendinger et al.,
sections of the Earth which are easy to interpret, and 1983; Hauge et al., 1987), the Rio Grande rift (Brown
that the relatively high frequency of the source and et al., 1980), the East African rift (Rosendahl, 1987),
dense coverage of seismograms can provide a high and the Anza rift in East Africa (Bosworth and
resolution image. The major effort after the field Morley, 1994). An example of a seismic reflection
work is in data processing which, if successful, record section is shown in Figure 3B-2. The record
makes the interpretation straightforward. The reflec- section provides a detailed image of fault structures
tion data are displayed as time sections usually in a and basin geometry and, with the addition of geo-
2-D plane. Reflected and diffracted energy from logical data, can provide the basis for interpretation
outside of this plane can produce complex and pos- of the tectonic history of a rift.
68 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

3B.3. Refraction (Wide Angle) Profiling served time-distance data T(D) into velocity-depth
functions V(z). The simplest case occurs when the
The seismic refraction technique as classically correlated travel-time curves are straight-line seg-
practiced has provided much of the data available ments. Under the assumption that the Earth's crust
on crustal thickness and uppermost mantle P-wave and upper mantle consist of layers with constant
velocities. However, many of these results have as- velocities separated by discontinuities at which the
sumed overly-simple Earth models (Fig. 3B-1B). In velocity increases discontinuously from V(i) to
the seismic refraction technique, the distance from V(i+ 1), formulas have been developed to calculate
the source to the most distant receiver is several layer velocities, depth, and dip of the corresponding
times the intended maximum depth of penetration. layers (e.g., Bullen and Bolt, 1985; Officer, 1958;
Elementary texts on seismic exploration leave the Perrier, 1973; Steinhart and Meyer, 1961). Curved
impression that only critically-refracted waves that segments can occur in first as well as in later arriv-
travel along interfaces (i.e., head waves) are inter- als. When later arrivals are fitted by concave travel
preted in such studies. When employed to study time curves, they can be interpreted as reflections
crustal structure, the term refraction survey is in fact from first-order discontinuities. Computer methods
a misnomer because many reflected phases are also have been developed to simultaneously model re-
interpreted. It is better to think of such surveys as flection and refraction arrivals from a number of
wide-angle experiments because they stress the in- sources to multiple receivers (Fig. 3B-1C). These
terpretation of waves which intersect interfaces at methods, sometimes known as seismic travel-time
angles greater than a few degrees, often greater than inversion (Zelt and Smith, 1992), are similar to seis-
the critical angle. However, wide-angle surveys yield mic tomography, but utilize backscattered rather than
results which are not straight-forward to interpret. transmitted energy (Nowack and Braile, 1993). An
The strength of such surveys is the resolution pos- example of a travel-time inversion for data from the
sible in determining velocities. The weakness is Kenya rift is shown in Figure 3B-3. Additional dis-
ambiguities which arise when complex structures are cussion of wide-angle seismic methods and examples
encountered. The first step in interpreting wide-angle of applications are included in Holbrook (1990) and
seismic data is the correlation of the observed phases. Holbrook et al. (1992b).
This subjective task may be difficult for secondary In order to include the analysis of observed am-
arrivals. To facilitate such a correlation, all seismo- plitudes and waveforms and thus check the reliabil-
grams along a profile are usually arranged into a ity of the velocity-depth models obtained by travel-
record section according to their distance from the time studies, synthetic seismogram techniques us-
shotpoint using reduced travel times. The reduced ing ray theoretical and reflectivity methods have
travel time (Tr) is defined as the observed travel time been developed (e.g., Fuchs and Mueller, 1971;
(T) minus distance (D) divided by the reduction ve- Kind, 1976; Cerveny et al., 1977; Kennett, 1983).
locity (Vr): Tr = T - D/Vr. For the investigation of These methods assume an elastic half space consist-
compressional (P) waves propagating in the crust, ing of homogeneous, horizontal and isotropic lay-
Vr = 6 km/s is a suitable and widely-used reduction ers. In the reflectivity method (Fuchs, 1968), the
velocity, while for the investigation of the upper- complete wave field is computed, including all shear
most mantle, 8 km/s is normally used for P-wave waves, converted phases (P to S or vice versa), mul-
studies. The second step, after the correlation of the tiple phases, etc. In the ray method, the wave field
recorded seismic waves, is the inversion of the ob-

Fig. 3B-3. Crustal seismic model and seismic raypaths representing the data and model parameters used in travel-time inversion.
Seismic data are from the KRISP90 experiment in Kenya (Braile et al., 1994). The travel-time data consisted of refracted and wide-
angle reflected arrivals recorded at seismographs along the 450 km profile from shotpoints at VIC, KAP, BAR, TAN, BAS, and
CHF. A. Velocity model for the shallow crust derived by inversion of refracted arrivals corresponding to raypaths shown in B. C.
Derived velocity model (numbers in model are seismic compressional wave velocities in km/s) and raypaths for deep crust and
uppermost mantle travel times across the Kenya rift.
Seismic techniques 69
70 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

is separated into elementary waves corresponding been applied by various authors to the same data sets
to groups of kinematically analogous waves. For a and the results have been compared (Ansorge et al.,
system of homogeneous and parallel layers, elemen- 1982; Mooney and Prodehl, 1984; Finlayson and
tary seismograms can be computed exactly from ray Ansorge, 1984). These results provide useful insights
theory (Mueller, 1970). However, numerical tests into the differences in velocity models produced by
have shown that an approximate ray method various interpretation methods.
(Cerveny et al., 1977) yields satisfactory results in
most applications.
The reflectivity method at present can only be 3B.4. Teleseismic Techniques
applied to one-dimensional velocity-depth distribu- Seismic reflection and refraction techniques are
tions. For the ray method, however, programs have termed "active" in that they involve manmade
been developed which allow the calculation of travel sources controlled during the experiment. Natural
times and amplitudes for rays traveling through lat- seismic events (earthquakes) also provide a wide
erally inhomogeneous structures (e.g., Cerveny and variety of information on lithospheric structure and
Psencik, 1984; Cerveny, 1985). A combination of involve "passive" monitoring, usually for extended
1D and 2D-modeling and interpretation procedures periods of time. Teleseismic techniques utilize sig-
is usually most effective. nals from distant sources that arrive at the receivers
In the last few years wide-angle interpretation at near-vertical angles of incidence (Fig. 3B-1D).
procedures have not only been applied toP-wave The travel times of such waves are compared to those
observations, but also to S-wave data which in many for standard, average Earth models. In order to cor-
cases can be correlated reliably on modern, three- rect for source location errors and deviations from
component data sets. In addition, off-line recordings the assumed average Earth model that are not in the
have also been analyzed (e.g., Milkereit et al., 1986). area of interest, a reference (base) station is usually
Another procedure to investigate data sets which established which is outside the primary area of in-
are not obtained as observations along profiles but terest. The travel time to this station is used as a
by three-dimensional arrays, is the time-term reference and travel-time differences with respect
method, which has been successfully employed by to this station (relative residuals) or delay times are
Bamford (1973, 1977). Here, delay times for a par- the actual observations which are analyzed. The spa-
ticular phase are calculated and the deviations from tial pattern of relative residuals contains informa-
an average are interpreted as changes in depth to a tion on the shape and magnitude of velocity anoma-
particular discontinuity. Under certain assumptions lies under the seismic network. Profiles or 2-D ar-
this method also allows for investigation of velocity rays of stations can be employed. Such studies in
variations at a particular boundary and possible sys- modern rifts have found that P-waves arrive 1-2 sec-
tematic azimuthal variations. For southern Germany onds late (Fairhead and Reeves, 1977; Nolet and
and the western United States, Bamford (1973) and Mueller, 1982; Davis et al., 1984, Parker et al., 1984;
Bamford et al. (1979) have predicted the presence Savage and Long, 1985; Achauer et al., 1988; Green
of anisotropy beneath the Moho using this method. et al., 1991; Green and Meyer, 1992; Davis et al.,
In special workshops of the Commission on Con- 1993; Slack et al., 1994). An example of data and
trolled Source Seismology of the International As-
modeling of teleseismic delay-time data for the
sociation of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Kenya rift is shown in Figure 3B-4.
Interior the different interpretation techniques have

Fig. 3B-4. Teleseismic modeling applied to the KRISP85 and 90 data for the Kenya rift (Slack et al., 1994). A. Average relative
travel-time residual (in seconds) for teleseismic raypaths used in delay-time inversion to determine upper mantle compressional
wave velocities. Station locations are shown by the X and late (positive) and early (negative) arrivals are indicated by the circle and
square symbols. B. Upper mantle velocity model used to fit the travel time residuals in A. Velocities below the derived smooth
surface are 7.5% lower than above the surface (modified from Slack et al., 1994). Distances are in km. The (0,0) location is the
center of the seismograph array.
Seismic techniques 71
72 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

In the absence of independent controls, ticomponent recordings are usually necessary, at


teleseismic studies involve a velocity contrast-vol- least partially so that source wavelet effects can be
ume ambiguity similar to the density contrast-vol- removed. Averaging of several seismograms or us-
ume ambiguity encountered in gravity studies. With ing the average of seismograms from a small array
crustal models from reflection and refraction stud- of receivers can improve the stability of the inver-
ies as constraints, teleseismic data provide a major sion procedure and resolution of the derived model.
source of relatively detailed information about the Because the method requires only a single 3-com-
upper mantle. However, resolution is usually only a ponent seismic station, it is very cost-effective. How-
few 10's ofkm in upper mantle studies. Both P-wave ever, 2- and 3-dimensional velocity variations, if
and S-wave velocity variations can be analyzed and present, may limit the accuracy and applicability of
attenuation (Q-~) variations have also been derived this technique.
(Slack et al., 1994). On a smaller scale, the
teleseismic approach can be effectively utilized to
study 3D-features such as magma chambers (Iyer, 3B.5. Studies of Local and Regional Earth-
1984; Sanford and Einarsson, 1982; Achauer et al., quakes
1986). For quantitative modeling of the P-residuals, Local and regional earthquakes provide informa-
a three-dimensional inversion technique developed tion about Earth structure in a variety of ways. The
by Aki et al. (1976, 1977) is used. In this technique, resolution attainable is heavily dependent on the dis-
the Earth under the seismic array is divided into rect- tribution of stations and sources. Data from networks
angular blocks. The starting model is a stack of ho- of seismographs can be interpreted in terms of crustal
mogeneous, plane, parallel layers overlying a stan- phases and analyzed in a fashion similar to refrac-
dard Earth. The velocities in the blocks are then per- tion data (e.g., Mitchell and Hashim, 1977). Wave-
turbed resulting in travel-time changes within each forms of body waves can also yield information
block, which, when summed along the raypath pro- about crustal structure (e.g., Wallace, 1986).
duces a result equivalent to the observed residuals. Data from dense networks such as exist in south-
Thus, for events from many azimuths recorded at ern California lend themselves to tomographic analy-
the stations of the network, a series of linear equa- sis of both crustal (Hearn and Clayton, 1986a, b;
tions is generated relating the observed residuals and Walck and Clayton, 1987) and upper mantle
the perturbation in each block. The equations are (Humphreys et al., 1984) structure. The tomographic
usually solved using a damped least-squares inver- approach requires a high density of both recording
sion technique. The final results are in percentages stations and recorded signals corresponding to rela-
of velocity perturbations for each block (Iyer, 1984). tively uniform raypath coverage.
In addition to the analysis of travel time anoma- An interesting approach to determining structure
lies, recent studies of broadband data (e.g., Owens within an array is to invert simultaneously for Earth
et al., 1984; 1987) show that the careful analysis of structure and earthquake hypocenters (Fig. 3B-1E).
teleseismic waveforms (receiver functions) can pro- Thus, the search is for the combination of 3D-Earth
vide reasonably detailed data on crustal structure. model and earthquake locations which is optimal in
In the receiver function method, waveform informa-
a least-squares sense (e.g., Benz and Smith, 1984;
tion contained in the seismogram is analyzed by
Roecker et al., 1987; Shedlock and Roecker, 1987;
comparing time- or frequency-domain synthetic data Kissling, 1988).
(calculated for an initial layered velocity model) with
the observed seismograms. The modeling procedure
may involve trial-and-error comparisons or an auto- 3B.6. Analysis of Surface Waves
mated (inversion) technique. Usually, shear-wave
signals and their S to P conversions and multiple Surface waves are fundamentally different from
reflections (Fig. 3B-1F) within the crust or other body waves (P and S) in that they are dispersed (i.e.,
lithospheric layers are included in the analysis. Mul- the velocity varies with period) and travel along the
Seismic techniques 73

surface of the Earth. The depth of penetration is pro- if only P-wave first motions are used in the focal
portional to the wavelength. Thus, long period waves mechanism determination, there are two nodal planes
penetrate deeper, encountering faster material and which could be the actual fault plane. This ambigu-
in turn travel faster. A useful rule-of-thumb is: the ity is removed if S-wave polarizations and/or sur-
maximum depth (in km) for which a surface wave is face wave analysis are included in the determina-
capable of resolving velocity structure is on the or- tion. Detailed source studies involving waveform
der of the longest period (in seconds) for which data modeling provide a means to compare deep-seated
are available (greater depth penetration occurs for processes to surface faulting (e.g., Doser, 1986). If
higher mode surface waves). For example, disper- an area is instrumented densely enough (a seismic
sion results which extend to periods of 50 s can re- network or array) to accurately determine hypo-
solve the velocity structure to a depth of about 50 centers, three-dimensional plots or hypocentral
km. The pattern of dispersion (group or phase ve- cross-sections can be constructed which allow the
locity versus period) is modeled (Fig. 3B-1G) in attitude of active fault planes to be delineated (Fig.
terms of horizontal layered Earth models to deter- 3B-1H).
mine average velocity structure between the source
and a single station or between two or more stations.
Kovach (1978) provides a review of these waves and 3B.8. Seismic velocities in rift zones - Informa-
their analysis. tion from laboratory studies of rock proper-
Surface waves have relatively low resolution (usu- ties
ally +3-5 km for Moho depths, for example) but are Seismic studies of rift zones provide information
important because they are primarily sensitive to on the seismic velocity structure of the crust and
variations in shear wave velocity (Der et al., 1970). upper mantle. Interpretation of these velocity deter-
The 2-D and 3-D variations of velocity with period minations is facilitated by comparisons with the ve-
(dispersion) can be analyzed using the dispersion locity structure of other regions and with statistical
curves or waveform modeling with synthetic seis- summaries, and by consideration of seismic veloc-
mograms to determine Earth structure (Lerner-Lam ity measurements on rock samples in the laboratory.
and Jordan, 1983; Nakanishi, 1993) and Q-1 (Bur- In this section, we briefly review the available in-
ton, 1974) although the procedures are complicated. formation on seismic velocity studies from labora-
Measurements in rift zones have indicated relatively tory data and their implications for the interpreta-
low shear velocities in the crust and the upper mantle tion of the crustal structure of rifts. Only velocity
(Mueller and Bonjer, 1976; Sinno and Keller, 1986) measurements for crystalline rocks which may be
beneath rifts. important constituents of the continental crust and
upper mantle will be considered. Furthermore, only
3B.7. Seismicity Studies compressional velocity measurements will be dis-
cussed because only limited shear-wave velocity in-
Studies of earthquakes in rifts also provide use- formation on the crustal structure of continental rifts
ful information that is not directly related to seis- is available.
mic velocity structure. The most commonly used A large number of laboratory velocity measure-
results from earthquake studies are focal mechanisms ments on rocks have been published beginning with
and the determination of spatial and temporal varia- the early work of Birch and Bancroft (1938), Birch
tions in seismicity which indicate characteristics of (1943, 1958, 1960, 1961), Hughes and Cross (1951),
faulting and extension (or other deformation). Fo- and Hughes and Maurette (1956, 1957). Compila-
cal mechanisms are a major source of data on stress tions of laboratory velocity data are contained in
orientations (e.g., Zoback and Zoback, 1980). How- papers by Press (1966) and Christensen (1989a). A
ever, stress orientations inferred from focal mecha- recent review of the composition and laboratory seis-
nisms have an accuracy of about +15". Furthermore, mic velocity determinations of continental crustal
74 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Table 3B.3.
References for rock properties data in Figures.
Figure Data References

3B.5 Vp-SiO2 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23

3B.6 dVp/dP 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

3B.7 dVp/dT 5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32

3B.8 Anisotropy 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29

3B.9 Vp-Density 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

References:
. Birch, 1960; 1961 17. Jackson and Arculus, 1983
2. Burke and Fountain, 1990 18. Kern, 1978
3. Christensen, 1974 19. Kern, 1982
4. Christensen, 1978 20. Kern and Fakhimi, 1975
5. Christensen, 1979 21. Kern and Richter, 1981
6. Christensen, 1989a 22. Kern and Schenk, 1985
7. Christensen and Fountain, 1975 23. Kern and Schenk, 1988
8. Chroston and Brooks, 1989 24. Kroenke et al., 1976
9. Chroston and Evans, 1983 25. McDonough and Fountain, 1988
10. Fielitz and Clausthal-ZeUerfeld, 1971 26. Meissner and Fakhimi, 1977
11. Fountain, 1976 27. Mooney and Christensen, 1994
12. Fountain and Christensen, 1989 28. Padovani et al., 1982
13. Fountain et al., 1990 29. Peselnick and Nicolas, 1978
14. Hughes and Cross, 1951 30. Peselnick et al., 1977
15. Hughes and Maurette, 1956 31. Ramananantoandro and Manghnani, 1978
16. Hughes and Maurette, 1957 32. Spencer and Nur, 1976

rocks is presented by Fountain and Christensen ity (dVp/dP), the temperature derivative of velocity
(1989) along with an extensive list of references on (dVp/dT), and the percentage of anisotropy. For each
rock properties. Holbrook et al. (1992a) have re- rock sample, we have classified the rock as upper
cently provided a compilation of lower crustal rock crustal, lower crustal, or upper mantle, following the
properties data including P- and S-velocities, den- descriptions and classifications (which are based on
sity, anisotropy, and Poisson's ratio. Christensen and the field location of the collected rock sample, its
Wepfer (1989) provide a discussion of laboratory composition, and the presence of pressure and tem-
methods for measuring rock velocities and limita- perature range indicators provided by mineralogy
tions of those methods. and metamorphic grade) given by the authors of the
In our compilation of laboratory values of rock laboratory studies. Although not all types of data
properties, we have collected available data from exist for each sample, our compilation contains in-
published literature (see sources of data listed in formation for over 400 rock samples which are in-
Table 3B-3) on compressional wave velocity, com- ferred to be representative of the Earth's continen-
position (a few chemical components such as per- tal crust and the uppermost mantle and which have
centage SIO2, percentage Fe203 + MgO, have been been analyzed in rock properties laboratories.
tabulated), density, the pressure derivative of veloc-
Seismic techniques 75

It is well known that the seismic velocity of rocks


is a function of confining pressure, pore pressure,
1~176 i! r Gr- Q t l Diorite J
Di0 Dio b
' '

90
temperature, anisotropy and composition. Because t r-I [] UpperCrustal RocksIN = 51)
continental rift zones are sites of magmatic activity
and anomalous heat flow, we expect that the most o Upper Mantle Rocks (N = 37)
important factors controlling crustal seismic veloc-
ity variations in rifts are composition and tempera-
ture. Magmatic intrusions into the crust in rifts and .O
o
depletion of associated upper mantle source regions o
could result in significant compositional variations
which might be evidenced by seismic velocity
anomalies. However, the volumes of extrusive or o S%o~
intrusive rocks must be substantial if measured
30 I
crustal velocities are to be significantly affected by 6.0 6'.5 7'.0 7'.5 8'.0 8'.5 9.0
this mechanism (Humphreys and Dueker, 1994). Vp (kmls) [at 600 MPa]
Thermal metamorphism caused by the anomalously
high crustal temperatures and the resulting higher
metamorphic grade, may be important in rift zones. Fig. 3B-5. Laboratory-measured compressional wave
Laboratory measurements show that the velocities velocities (Vp) for rock samples representative of crustal and
uppermost mantle rocks plotted versus percentage of SiO2 in
of rocks varies strongly as a function of bulk chemi- the samples. Data sources are listed in Table 3B-3. The rock
cal composition and metamorphic grade which af- types (Gr = granite, Gr-Dio = granodiorite, O1 Gab = olivine
fects the petrologic content. In general, the velocity gabbro) shown at the top of the diagram correspond to the
is inversely correlated with total SiO2 content, and velocity ranges (corrected to 600 Mpa) calculated for the crust
directly correlated with FeO+Fe203+MgO content and upper mantle rock types by Christensen (1965). N =
number of samples. The line through the data represents
and with increasing metamorphic grade approximate relationship of Vp and SiO2 percentage based on
(Christensen, 1965; Holbrook et al., 1992a). For the laboratory measurements on the rock samples.
crystalline igneous rocks, the seismic velocity var-
ies systematically according to SiO2 content and
therefore rock type as shown in Figure 3B-5. Note types, it is possible to account for the pressure ef-
that the velocities for the laboratory rock samples fect with reasonable confidence in interpretation and
plotted in Figure 3B-5 do not include the effect of results for all rock types (upper crustal, lower crustal
temperature. At depths of about 20 km (~ 600 MPa and upper mantle) have been combined in our com-
pressure), in situ velocities will be reduced by about pilation (Fig. 3B-6). In certain environments, pore
0.2 to 0.5 km/s depending on rock type, and tem- pressure may be an important factor controlling the
perature-depth curves which are associated with spe- seismic velocity of rocks. High pore pressures in the
cific heat-flow provinces. Further analyses of the crust can lead to significantly reduced seismic ve-
depth (pressure) and temperature effects on veloc- locities (Christensen, 1989b). A more extensive dis-
ity are presented below. cussion of these effects is contained in Fountain and
At low confining pressures (less than about 200 Christensen (1989).
MPa), corresponding to depths of about 0 to 5 km in Temperature has a strong effect on seismic ve-
the crust, seismic velocity is strongly influenced by locity and should be an important factor in control-
pressure because of the closing of cracks and pore ling the crustal and upper mantle velocity structure
spaces. At higher pressures, velocity varies approxi- of continental rifts where thermal anomalies are pro-
mately linearly with confining pressure with a de- nounced. Increased temperatures nearly always pro-
rivative of approximately 2.7 x 10-4 km/s/MPa (Fig. duce lower compressional wave velocities in rocks
3B-6). Because the effect of pressure on rock ve- which are likely constituents of the continental crust
locity is relatively constant for a wide range of rock and upper mantle. A compilation of laboratory ve-
76 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

crust would result in an expected decrease in upper


m Crustal and Upper
Mantle Rocks
mantle seismic velocity of 0.074 km/s. Combining
the pressure and temperature effects, upper mantle
N = 418
Mean = 2.942 x 10 .4 rocks in a high heat flow region with a thin crust
Median = 2.670 x 10 .4 may have a contrast in seismic velocity of a b o u t -
L_ Std. Dev. = 1.304 x 10 -4
G) (km/s/MPa) 0.35 km/s. Therefore, upper mantle beneath cratons
JD
E with seismic velocity of 8.0 km/s may be the same
:3
Z
rock composition as 7.65 km/s mantle beneath a high
heat flow region. The suggestion that temperature
in the mantle is a primary control on P, velocity has
been made based on statistical analysis of North
American P, velocity data (Black and Braile, 1982).
Intrusion into the crust is an efficient mechanism
ta o m. ~. m. o m. o m . o m. o m. o m. o ta o.
to transfer heat to the crust and may result in sig-
nificant compositional heterogeneity. Mafic intru-
dVp/aP Ix10"4) [km/s/MPa] sions into the lower crust could produce no signifi-
cant seismic velocity anomaly (velocity of hot in-
truded material is approximately equal to the veloc-
Fig. 3B-6. Histogram of pressure derivative (dVp/dE ity of the surrounding lower crust) while the intru-
compressional wave velocity as a function of pressure) data
sion and crust are still hot (during and within a few
for crustal and upper mantle rock samples. Derivatives are
calculated from confining pressure measurements in the range
million years of a rifting and magmatic event), while
of 2 0 0 - 1 0 0 0 MPa. Data sources are listed in Table 3B-3. A after sufficient time for cooling, the intrusion may
summary of statistics is given in Table 3B-4. have a higher than normal velocity. Even after cool-
ing, the relatively small velocity contrast between
locity measurements of the temperature derivative
(dVp/dT) is illustrated in histogram form in Figure
3B-7. Median values of the temperature derivatives
for the three rock types shown (Table 3B-4) vary
from about-3.9 to-5.4 x 10-4 km/s/~ Such values
indicate that temperature anomalies of a few hun-
dred degrees will produce observable velocity
anomalies.
For example, ultramafic rocks in the uppermost
mantle in a high heat flow region could easily be at
a temperature that is 500~ higher than in an area of
normal heat flow. This temperature difference would
cause the compressional wave velocity to be de-
creased by about 0.27 km/s, assuming a derivative
o f - 5 . 4 x 10-4 km/s/~ appropriate for ultramafic
rocks (Table 3B--4). Because the crustal thickness
in high heat flow regions is often substantially less
than in normal continental areas, it is also necessary
to consider the pressure effect. Using the pressure
derivative of 2.67 x 10-4 km/s/MPa (Fig. 3B-6 and Fig. 3B-7. Histograms of the temperature derivative (dVp/dT,
Table 3B-4) and an average crustal density of 2.9 g/ compressional wave velocity as a function of temperature) for
cm 3, the pressure effect becomes 7.4 x 10-3 km/s/ laboratory samples of upper crustal, lower crustal and upper
mantle rocks. Data sources are listed in Table 3B-3. A
km as a function of depth. Thus, a 10 km thinner summary of statistics is given in Table 3B-4.
Seismic techniques 77

Table 3B-4.
Rock properties statistical summaries.

Number of Standard
Figure Property* Units Sam ples Mean Median Deviation

3B.6 dVp/dP km/s/MPa 418 2.942 10-4 2.670 10-4 1.304 10 -4

3B.7 dVp/dT km/s/~ 27 -4.192 10-4 -4.000 10-4 1.529 10-4


(u.c. rocks)

dVp/dT km/s/~ 55 -4.816 10"4 -3.900 10-4 3.423 10 -4


(1.C. rocks)

dVp/dT km/s/~ 23 -5.030 10 -4 --5.400 10 -4 2.003 10 -4


(u.m. rocks)

3B .8 Anisotropy % 102 4.13 7 2.700 3.864


(u.c. rocks)

Anisotropy % 164 4.935 3.200 4.890


(1.c. rocks)

Anis otropy % 74 4.642 3.900 3.045


(u.m. rocks)
i

*Vp = compressional wave velocity, P = pressure, T = temperature, u.c. = upper crust, 1.c. = lower crust,
u.m. = upper mantle.

intruded mafic rocks and "normal" low crustal ve- crustal and upper mantle rock types is shown in Fig-
locities may cause the intrusions to be undetectable ure 3B-8. A statistical summary of the data is given
on the basis of seismic velocities from crustal seis- in Table 3B--4 and the sources of data are listed in
mic data. Mafic intrusions into the upper crust will Table 3B-3. The median anisotropy for the three rock
normally produce substantial velocity anomalies. types is relatively small (2.7 to 3.9%), although some
Observations of outcrops and laboratory measure- significantly larger (> 10%) values of anisotropy
ments indicate that most rocks are anisotropic (Foun- have been observed, and the medians increase
tain and Christensen, 1989). However, in continen- slightly from upper crust to lower crust to upper
tal regions, significant anisotropy (greater than a few mantle rock types. The measured anisotropy of a rock
percent) has rarely been observed in large-scale ex- layer or volume in crustal and upper mantle studies
periments and it is likely that in most parts of the may be significantly lower (or even zero) than the
continental crust, isotropy (or at least transverse isot- laboratory samples if anisotropic directions are not
ropy) is a reasonable approximation considering the consistently aligned. Anisotropies of less than 1-2%
inherent averaging of velocities over many wave- are extremely difficult to (statistically) resolve from
lengths of the propagation path. A compilation of analysis of crustal seismic data. Nevertheless, un-
laboratory-measured anisotropy data for the com- der appropriate circumstances, it is likely to observe
pressional wave velocity of upper crustal, lower at least small anisotropy in continental crustal seis-
78 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Fig. 3B-8. Histograms of percentage of compressional wave velocity anisotropy for laboratory samples of upper crustal, lower
crustal and upper mantle rocks. Data sources are listed in Table 3B-3. A summary of statistics is given in Table 3B-4.

mic studies. Such observations have been reported 3B.9. Crustal seismic velocity structure of
(e.g., Bamford, 1977; Bamford et al., 1979). Fur- continental rifts - a statistical analysis of data
thermore, anisotropy can be a possible explanation from North America
for discrepancies between reflection (near-vertical
raypaths) and refraction and wide-angle (near-hori- A recently completed compilation of crustal seis-
zontal raypaths) observations of velocity for data at mic models for the North American continent (Braile
the same location. Refraction and reflection data can et al., 1989; Mooney and Braile, 1990) provides data
be simultaneously modeled to determine anisotropy for comparison of seismic properties of rift areas
(Boztepe and Braile, 1994). with other regions of the continental crust. The North
Crustal and upper mantle models interpreted from American data set is particularly suited to a statisti-
seismic data are commonly checked and refined by cal analysis and comparative studies because a rea-
computing the gravity response of equivalent den- sonably large number of crustal models have been
sity models. Velocity-density relations are used, at determined and the North American continent con-
least initially, to estimate appropriate densities in the sists of a wide range of age and types of geologic
crust and upper mantle of the density model. Veloc- provinces that include both modern and paleorifts.
ity-density data from laboratory measurements of Although unable to provide detailed information
rock properties often display a linear relation al- relative to any particular rift or geographic area, a
though substantial scatter, and, therefore, ambigu- statistical analysis of crustal models has the advan-
ity in interpretation, is also observed (Barton, 1986). tage of illuminating general characteristics and
Furthermore, the velocity-density data from labora- trends, "smoothing out" random variations and dis-
tory measurements are observed at relatively low crepant points, and emphasizing representative val-
pressures and temperatures and may not be appro- ues. A complete listing of the sources of models in
priate for predicting density of molten or nearly- the crustal structure compilation, a discussion of the
melted materials such as could be present in crustal procedures, assumptions and limitations of the data
intrusions and in anomalously hot upper mantle. and compilation methods, and some statistical analy-
From our rock properties compilation, we have com- sis of the continent-wide data is contained in Braile
puted the velocity-density relations shown in Fig- et al. (1989) and Mooney and Braile (1989).
ure 3B-9.
Seismic techniques 79

8.8 I I I
0
I I

Vp = 2.382Rho - 0.111
0 o
(g
r"'q Rho = 0.352Vp + 0.523
0
o. r = 0.916
O(

=z
o
o
~ ~00
0 9
0

(o ~~
m
...%
L_J $
A
7.0
E 6.e
v 6.6 *~4boe,,ee 9 [] Upper(N
= 116)Crustal Rocks
r
- 6.4 9 Lower Crustal Rocks
6.2 ~5 (N = 186)
6.01- '-"-o'O o Upper Mantle Rocks
5.8 9 IN = 89)
2.6 2:8 310 312 3.4 3:6 3.8
Rho (g/cm3) [at 600 MPa]

Fig. 3B-9. Plot of compressional wave velocity (Vp) versus density (Rho) for laboratory samples of upper crustal, lower crustal,
and upper mantle rocks. Data sources are listed in Table 3B-3. The line and associated equations were derived by a least squares
(linear) fit to the data. r = correlation coefficient for the fit.

one of the statistical parameters. Unfortunately, the


The crustal velocity structure compilation for number of data points for the paleorift category is
North America consists of tabulations of the crustal relatively small and thus the inferences using statis-
thickness (Hc), upper mantle compressional wave tics based on these data must be interpreted cau-
velocity (P.), and the average compressional wave tiously. A small number of data points representing
velocity of the crystalline crust (Vp). The crustal the Cenozoic volcanic provinces (a "rift-like" fea-
structure information is derived from seismic mod- ture) are included in the North America minus rifts
els from 247 seismic studies for continental North category. The data for the remainder of North
America. As an example of the utility of these data, America are considered as a group to be representa-
a contour diagram of the NorthAmerican crustal tive of the (mostly) "normal" continental crust. Ex-
thickness (Hc) data is shown in Figure 3B-10 with amples of representative crustal velocity models for
physiographic provinces identified and the locations rift and non-rift provinces for North America are
of selected rifts and other tectonic features illus- shown in Figure 3B-11. Crustal models for the "nor-
trated. The data are organized by province for ease mal" continental crust (largely the North American
of location of individual profiles on maps and to fa- craton), modern and paleorift zones, the coastal
cilitate subsequent analysis of parts of the data set. plain, and Cenozoic volcanic provinces are shown
The crustal seismic parameters for North America for comparison. A relatively thin crust and low up-
have been separated into rift and non-rift areas. The per mantle velocity characterize the modern rift
rift zones include modern rifts (Rio Grande, Basin models from North America. The crustal models for
and Range and Salton Trough), paleorifts the rift areas and average North America (Fig. 3B-
(Midcontinent Rift and New Madrid rift), and the 11), and the contrasts between these models (prima-
Coastal Plain which is the passive continental mar- rily crustal thickness and P~ velocity differences) are
gin formed by rifting of the Atlantic and Gulf of very similar to the rift and off-rift crustal models
Mexico oceans in the Mesozoic and is, therefore, which were determined for the Kenya rift area in
technically, part of a paleorift. However, the data east Africa (Braile et al., 1994). The paleorift mod-
for the Coastal Plain are considered separately be- els display anomalous upper crustal structure (as
cause they display a distinct distribution for at least
80 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Fig. 3B-10. Contour map of crustal thickness data for North America (Braile et al., 1989). Contour interval is 5 km. Physiographic
provinces are indicated by the dotted lines (CA=Cascade Range, SN=Sierra Nevada). Specific rifts are also indicated: NM=New
Madrid, MCR=Mid-Continent, RGR=Rio Grande, ST=Salton Trough. The Snake River Plain Cenozoic volcanic terrain is indicated
by SRP.

compared with the average North America crustal The difference in the mean values of crustal thick-
models) and contain a high-velocity lower crustal ness for the active rift and "normal" continental crust
layer. suggests that crustal thinning during rifting is about
Data for four of the groups of geologic province 9 km. This thinning could be accomplished by up-
types (modern) rifts, paleo-rifts, coastal plain and lift and erosion of part of the upper crust, extension
remainder of North America are displayed in histo- (by normal faulting or ductile stretching), migration
grams in Figures 3B-12 to 3B-14. Simple statistics of the Moho by phase transition, subcrustal "ero-
for the data sets are listed in Table 3B-6. sion" (intrusion into and assimilation by melting of
Crustal thickness histograms for the rift and non- lower crustal material by the upper mantle), or a
rift regions of North America are shown in Figure combination of these processes. The coastal plain
3B-12. The crustal thickness distributions for the (passive continental rift margin) data also display a
provinces are very distinct. When the rift provinces thinner than normal crust. However, the North
data are removed from the North American compi- American paleorifts are characterized by an anoma-
lation, the distribution, which is bimodal (Braile et lously thick crustmabout 8 km thicker than the nor-
al., 1989), becomes nearly Gaussian (Fig. 3B-12). mal continental crust. Presumably, these paleorifts
Seismic techniques 81

Fig. 3B-11. Selected crustal seismic models for North America. Models are grouped as follows: Average North America and craton
models, paleorift, m o d e m rift, and Cenozoic volcanic provinces. Numbers are compressional wave velocities in km/s. ELEV. =
elevation above sea level (S.L.); Sed./Volc. = sedimentary and volcanic rocks; Meta-Sed. = meta-sedimentary rocks; Inter.Layer =
intermediate layer; High Vel 1.c. = high-velocity lower crustal rocks. Sources of models are listed in Table 3B-5.

experienced thinning of their original crust during km/s). However, this Pn velocity difference is con-
rifting, but their crusts have thickened subsequently sistent with variations in velocity due to tempera-
by subsidence and volcanic or sedimentary accumu- ture variations in the upper mantle as suggested by
lation or by intrusion into the crust or underplating. Black and Braile (1982). The depth difference (mod-
Two of the North American paleorifts show evidence em rifts compared with normal continental crust, 9
of having been thickened by these mechanisms km) and temperature difference (estimated to be
(Ginzburg et al., 1983; Allen et al., Chapter 10 of about 500~ at the Moho combine to predict a P~
this volume). velocity decrease of 0.34 km/s in rift zones caused
Histograms for the P~ (uppermost mantle) veloc- by combined pressure and temperature effects (see
ity for the North American rift and non-rift areas are previous section). This anomaly is very close to the
shown in Figure 3B-13. The P~ distribution for the 0.28 km/s observed P~ difference. The coastal plain
non-rift areas displays a strong peak with a mean and paleorift areas have slightly higher than normal
value of 8.05 km/s. Modern rift areas are character- Pn velocity. Considering the standard errors of the
ized by a significantly low P~ velocity (mean = 7.77 mean value statistics, the paleorift data are only
82 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Table 3B-5.
Seismic Crustal Models for North America.

Velocity Model Reference Remarks

1. Average North America Braile et al., 1989 Average of structure from 247 refraction
studies

2. Average Superior Province Braile, 1989 Average of 11 Superior Province Models

3. N. Missouri Stewart, 1968

4. Midcontinent Rift Behrendt et al., 1988; Lower crustal velocity beneath rift is
Hinze et al., 1990; uncertain
Allen et al., Chapter 10 of this
volume,

5. New Madrid Rift Ginzburg et al., 1983

6. Coastal Plain Trehu et al., 1989 Passive continental margin near


continental shelf-slope break

7. Salton Trough Fuis et al., 1984


Mooney and Weaver, 1989

8. Basin and Range Braile et al., 1989 Average Basin and Range model

9. Rio Grande Rift Baldridge et al., 1984

10. Cascade Range Leaver et al., 1984

11. Western Snake River Plain Hill and Pakiser, 1966 Intermediate velocity layer of Fauria's
Fauria, 1981 model included

12. Eastern Snake River Plain Braile et al., 1982

13. Columbia Plateau Catchings et al., 1988

marginally anomalous in P~ velocity. The P~ data for crust and the coastal plain is caused by differences
the coastal plain regions indicate that the P~ veloc- in the depth to the Moho (and, therefore, pressure
ity is substantially higher for these areas as com- differences) and differences in temperature. For ex-
pared to that beneath 'normal' crust. However, it is ample, the crustal thickness histogram (Fig. 3B-12)
likely that at least a large part of the difference in suggest a difference in depth to Moho of about 10
mean P~ velocities between normal North American km between normal continental crust (~ 38 km) and
Seismic techniques 83

Table 3B-6.
Statistics for North American Crustal Seismic Data.
Data Set Number of Mean Std. Std.
Region Observations Value Error Deviation Units

Crustal Thickness (Hc)

Non-rift Areas 260 37.8 0.6 9.8 km

Modern Riffs 42 29.1 0.6 4.1 km

Paleorifts 10 46.2 1.3 4.2 km

Coastal Plain 25 28.2 1.5 7.3 km

Upper Mantle Velocity (Pn)

Non-rift Areas 242 8.05 0.04 0.21 km/s

Modern Rifts 44 7.77 0.02 0.12 km/s

Paleorifts 10 8.11 0.02 0.07 km/s

Coastal Plain 24 8.19 0.04 0.17 km/s

Average Crustal Velocity ( Vp )

Non-rift Areas 198 6.46 0.02 0.23 km/s

Modern Rifts 29 6.29 0.04 0.24 km/s

Paleorifts 6.67 0.04 0.12 km/s


l

Coastal Plain 21 6.40 0.07 0.31 km/s

coastal Plain regions (-- 28 km). Temperature differ- Pn velocity as compared to "normal" continental
ences at the Moho between the normal and Coastal crust) would be about 0.12 km/s, thus approximately
Plain crusts may be approximately 350~ Using accounting for the observed (0.14 km/s) difference.
these differences in confining pressure and tempera- Histograms for the average seismic compressional
ture and appropriate estimates of pressure and tem- wave velocity for the North American continental
perature derivatives (Table 3B-4), we estimate that crust are shown in Figure 3B-14 for the rift and non-
the Pn velocity variation caused by pressure and tem- rift regions. The average crustal velocity (Vp) has
perature conditions (the thinner crust, and therefore been suggested by Smithson et al. (1981) to be in-
lower pressure, implies a 0.07 km/s lower Pn veloc- dicative of average composition of the crust. How-
ity, whereas the lower estimated temperature at the ever, Vp is also affected by temperature and pres-
Moho in the coastal plain implies a 0.19 km/s higher sure variations. In high heat flow environments, the
84 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Fig. 3B-12. Histograms of crustal thickness data (Braile et al., 1989) for modem rift, paleorift, coastal plain and the non-rift
continental crust of North America. Statistical values are given in Table 3B-6.

temperature effect may be significant and mayac- mal North American crust and the paleorift crust,
count for much of the observed variations in Vp. the difference cannot be attributable to pressure and
For North America, there is a strong correlation of temperature effects. (The small difference in crustal
Vp with thermal age of provinces similar to the ef- thickness, and therefore confining pressure in the
fect observed by Black and Braile (1982) for Pn ve- crust, between the normal and paleorift provinces
locity. These results can be most simply interpreted could only._account for a very small fraction of the
as an effect of cooling of the crust (and lithosphere) observed Vp differences). Therefore, we conclude
with time after a thermal event and that the observed
l -
that, the crust in paleorifts has been intruded by high-
Vp variations are primarily controlled by tempera- velocity and high-density material (and some lower
ture. The Vp histograms (Fig. 3B-14) indicate that velocity upper crustal material is replaced by higher
modem_ rift regions are characterized by anomalously velocity rocks) at some stage in the formation of the
low Vp --probably as a temperature effect. Vp data paleorifts. This process, which may also involve
for the paleorifts indicate a distinct anomaly. The "underplating" (Furlong and Fountain, 1986;
Vp data are significantly higher than for the 'nor- Holbrook et al., 1992a), along with cooling with age,
mal' crust. However, because there are insignificant probably contributes to the subsidence and thicken-
temperature or pressure differences between the nor- ing of the crust in paleorifts and accounts for the
Seismic techniques 85

Fig. 3B-13. Histograms of P, velocity data (Braile et al., 1989) for modem rift, paleorift, coastal plain and the non-rift continental
crust of North America. Statistical values are given in Table 3B--6.

observed differences in Vp between paleorifts and areas, is separating the thick sedimentary section
normal continental crust. Because the coastal plain (some of which may have seismic velocities very
region is a paleorift, one might expect higher than close to those of the upper crust) from the crystal-
normal average crustal velocity. However, this is not line crust in the calculation of Vp. Mis-identifying
observed. Possible explanations include pressure and some of the sedimentary section as crystalline crust
temperature effects (because there is a substantial would have the effect of lowering the Vp data. Simi-
difference in crustal thickness) and difficulties in larly, because the passive margins grade laterally into
correctly estimating Vp in the coastal plai_n region. oceanic crust, some oceanic crustal velocities may
The temperature and pressure effects on Vp for the be included in the Vp calculations, thus increasing
coastal plain can easily be estimated and do not sug- the values.
gest a major difference. However, the temperature Comparing the data for the rift and non-rift areas
in the crust of the coastal plain region could be dif- of North America in the three sets of histograms
ferent than is currently predicted by heat flow mod- (Figs. 3B-12, 3B-13, and 3B-14), the crustal struc-
els because of the complicated lateral variations in ture parameters (crustal thickness, P~ and Vp) for
crustal structure. An additional problem in estimat- the modern rift regions are all significantly lower
ing Vp, which is more prevalent in coastal plain than for the normal continental crust. The results are
86 L.W. Braile, G.R. Keller, S. Mueller, and C. Prodehl

Fig. 3B-14. Histograms of Vp (average velocity of the crystalline crust) data (Braile et al., 1989) for modem rift, paleorift, coastal
plain and the non-rift continental crust of North America. Statistical values are given in Table 3B-6.

consistent with a thinning of the crust during rifting increase in Vp is a response to cooling with age af-
which averages about 9 km and with crustal and ter the main extensional (active rifting) event and
upper mantle velocity variations which are predicted associated magmatism. Except for the intrusions into
by the estimated temperature differences. For the crust in the paleorifts, the seismic velocity varia-
paleorifts, the three crustal parameters are higher tions in rift and non-rift areas could be explained by
than normal, although the Pn velocity is only slightly temperature effects alone. No significant composi-
high and the difference may not be significant. The tional variations are required to match the seismic
crustal thickness and Vp data for paleorifts suggest data. Of course, compositional variations which do
that the crust is thickened and intruded with higher not involve significant volume fractions of the crust
velocity material at some time in the process of rift would not be detected. Furthermore, large composi-
development. The coastal plain data are less clear, tional variations related to rifting (intrusion into the
but do show a thinned crust of approximately nor- crust, depletion of certain mantle elements) could
mal Vp. The crustal thickness and velocity statis- occur and not be visible in the statistical data of the
tics for paleorifts and the observation that North crustal parameters if the variations do not involve
American paleorifts (Midcontinent rift, New Madrid significant changes in seismic velocity or density.
rift, coastal plain) have been areas of substantial
subsidence, suggest that the crustal thickening and
Seismic techniques 87

3B.10. Conclusions Aki, K., Christofferson, A., and Husebye, E.S., 1976. Three-di-
mensional seismic structure of the lithosphere under Mon-
Many different seismic methods are available for tana LASA. Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 66: 501-524.
Aki, K., Christofferson, A., and Husebye, E.S., 1977. Determi-
application to studies of the structure, physical prop-
nation of the three-dimensional seismic structure of the litho-
erties and processes of continental rifts. Each method sphere. J. Geophys. Res., 82: 277-296.
has its own capabilities and limitations in terms of Allmendinger, R.W., Sharp, J.W., von Tish, D., Serpa, L.,
the depth range of investigation, degree of resolu- Kaufman, S., Oliver, J., and Smith, R.B., 1983. Cenozoic and
tion attainable, and the physical properties deter- Mesozoic structure of the eastern Basin and Range from
COCORP seismic-reflection data. Geology, 11: 532-536.
mined. A reasonably accurate and complete image
Ansorge, J., Prodehl, C., and Bamford, D., 1982. Comparative
of the structure of continental rifts will generally interpretation of explosion seismic data. J. Geophys., 51: 69-
require application of multiple seismic methods. At 84.
present, shear-wave velocity, anisotropy, and Baldridge, W.S., Olsen, K.H., and Callender, J.F., 1984. Rio
Poisson's ratio data from continental rift areas are Grande rift, problems and perspectives. New Mexico Geol.
relatively sparse. Integration of the results of seis- Soc., 35th Field Conf. Guidebook: pp. 1-12.
Bamford, D., 1973. Refraction data in western Germany - a time-
mic studies with information from other geophysi- term interpretation. Z. Geophys., 39: 907-927.
cal and geological data will also be important to a Bamford, D., 1977. Pn velocity anisotropy in a continental upper
full understanding of the rifting process and its ef- mantle. Geophys. J. R. astr. Soc., 49: 29-48.
fects on the continental crust and upper mantle. An Bamford, D., Jentsch, M., and Prodehl, C., 1979. Pn anisotropy
analysis of available data on rock properties indi- studies in northern Britain and the eastern and western United
States. Geophys. J. R. astr. Soc., 57: 397--430.
cates the importance of consideration of the effects Barton, P.J., 1986. The relationship between seismic velocity and
of pressure and temperature in interpretation of seis- density in the continental crust - a useful constraint?.
mic velocity models. Substantial differences in heat Geophys. J. R. astr. Soc., 87: 195-208.
flow (and therefore temperature), crustal thickness Behrendt, J.C., and 7 others, 1988. Crustal structure of the
(and therefore pressure in the lower crust and up- Midcontinent rift system: Results from GLIMPCE deep seis-
mic reflection profiles. Geology, 16: 81-85.
permost mantle), and composition (caused by Benz, H.M., and Smith, R.B., 1984. Simultaneous inversion for
magmatism) have been observed in well-studied lateral velocity variations and hypocenters in the Yellowstone
continental rifts. These differences will generally be region using earthquake and refraction data. J. Geophys. Res.,
reflected in significant seismic velocity anomalies. 89:1208-1220.
Continental rift areas which have been extensively- Birch, F., 1943. Elasticity of igneous rocks at high temperatures
and pressures. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 54: 263-286.
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east Africa, display significant crust and upper in light of experimental studies of wave velocities in rocks.
mantle seismic velocity variations caused by late- In: Benioff, H., (ed.): Contribution in Geophysics in Honor
Cenozoic rifting. Similarities between the crustal of Beno Gutenberg. New York, Pergamon Press: pp. 158-170.
velocity structures observed in North America and Birch, F., 1960. The velocity of compressional waves in rocks to
10 kilobars, Part 1. J. Geophys. Res., 65: 1085-1102.
east Africa suggest common characteristics of the Birch, F., 1961. The velocity of compressional waves in rocks to
stable continental crust and the processes and effects 10 kilobars, Part 2. J. Geophys. Res., 66: 2199-2224.
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in a long column of granite. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 28:
243-254.
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Chapter 3C

Potential field methods

M.H.P. Bott and W.J. H i n z e

3C.1. Introduction field is a good indicator of broad mantle structure


such as plume heads associated with rifts. Both sur-
Potential field methods, specifically the gravity face gravity and satellite measurements reflect the
and magnetic exploration methods, have been used ellipsoidal shape and rotation of the Earth and lat-
extensively in the study of continental rifts, both eral deviations from the ellipsoid involving surface
modern and ancient. Gravity studies have provided topography and lateral density inhomogeneities
an important input to rift studies since the pioneer- within the Earth. Geoid anomalies can be calculated
ing studies of Bullard (1936) and Vening Meinesz from gravity anomalies and vice versa, but the geoid
(1950). Subsequently, gravity has been used to de- is less sensitive to short wavelengths derived pri-
lineate hidden rifts, to determine the shape of rift marily from near-surface, local geologic sources and
troughs, including the nature of faulting, to investi- more sensitive to long wavelengths.
gate crustal and upper mantle structure in associa- Relative gravity measurements can be made to an
tion with explosion and earthquake seismology, and accuracy of a small fraction of a milliGal (1 mGal =
to ascertain the isostatic state of rifts, including flex- 10-5m s-2), which is more than adequate for rift stud-
ural studies. Magnetic surveys, although not as ies. Raw gravity measurements need to be related to
widely used as gravity in rift studies, reveal base- the world gravity network, then corrected for plan-
ment and igneous structure, map hidden rifts, and etary gravity variations related to latitude using the
have been used to estimate the depth to the Curie International Gravity Formula and for station eleva-
point isotherm. This short review aims to discuss the tion, before they can be used for interpretation. El-
applicability and limitations of these methods. evation corrections include the free air correction,
allowing for decrease of the Earth's gravity with
3C.2. The gravity method height above sea level or other datum, the Bouguer
correction correcting for the attraction of material
The lateral variations of the Earth's gravitational from the station to sea level assuming it to be a uni-
field can be determined either by measuring the ver- form slab, and the terrain correction which accom-
tical component of gravitational attraction using a modates for lateral variations in topographical
gravity meter or by using satellites to determine the height. Other minor corrections such as for tidal
variation in geoid height which is proportional to variation of gravity and deviation of the geoid from
the anomalous gravitational potential. Gravity mea- the ellipsoid are sometimes applied to specialized
surements have been used for nearly all continental gravity surveys.
rift studies, although the satellite determined geoid
94 M.H.P. Bott and W.J. Hinze

The free air anomaly is obtained when the lati- is computed by standard techniques and compared
tude and free air corrections alone are made; the free with the observed anomaly. The shape and/or den-
air anomaly reflects the vertical component of the sity distribution is repeatedly adjusted until an ac-
gravitational attraction of both the topography above ceptable fit is obtained by trial and error. This pro-
datum and lateral variations of density below it, and cess can be carried out automatically using a vari-
is useful in flexural studies and for marine work. ety of inversion techniques such as non-linear opti-
The Bouguer anomaly is determined when the mization. The main problem with the indirect method
Bouguer and terrain corrections are also applied; the is that in absence of other information on the source
Bouguer anomaly reflects lateral variations in den- body, the resulting model can never be unique. Other
sity, eliminating the direct effects of topography. It models can also be constructed to give equally good
is the most useful type of anomaly for modeling in fits. This problem is minimized by constraining the
terms of postulated mass distributions. An isostatic proposed geologic model with collateral information
anomaly is calculated by subtracting the predicted from magnetic and seismic data and drill hole logs.
gravity effect of theoretical subsurface mass varia- Furthermore, ambiguity in interpretation can be over-
tions related to surface topography according to a come provided that adequate assumptions can be
specific hypothesis (e.g., Airy or Pratt) from the made. For example, if the density contrast across a
Bouguer anomaly. This anomaly can be used to test single interface and its depth at one point can both
the model suggested by the isostatic hypothesis as be specified, as in the case of the floor of the sedi-
well as providing a broader indication of the degree ment filled trough, then the shape of the interface
to which simple isostasy applies. can be mapped from the gravity anomaly it causes.
However, errors in the observed anomaly will lead
to errors in the mapping, and horizontal resolution
3C.3. Interpreting gravity anomalies is limited to wavelengths not much shorter than the
The first step in interpreting a local gravity (or depth of the interface. If constraints are inadequate
magnetic) anomaly is to separate the local residual to ensure uniqueness as above, it may be necessary
anomaly from the regional anomaly. There are then to compute a range of possible models consistent
three main approaches to the interpretation of a re- with the observations.
sidual anomaly: (1) the indirect method (or model- A simple application of the indirect method (mod-
ing) whereby a theoretical model of the subsurface eling) relevant to rift studies is to obtain the subsur-
is fitted to the observed anomaly by a process of face shape of the floor of an outcropping sedimen-
trial and error; (2) the parametric method which aims tary graben of specified density contrast with the
to fit a simple geometric shape to an anomaly, such basement (which may vary with depth) from the
as a slab or a sphere in gravity or a dike in magnet- gravity anomaly it causes. Sedimentary troughs are
ics; this approach can be used to place limits, such characterized by large negative local anomalies (sev-
as maximum possible depth to top of the body caus- eral tens of milliGals) with steep marginal gradients.
ing an anomaly; and (3) the direct method whereby Such anomalies of shallow origin do not extend more
potential field operations such as upward continua- than a few kilometers beyond the edges of the trough.
tion are carried out. The indirect method is by far In continental rift regions, the deeper crustal and
the most widely used approach in the interpretation mantle anomalies are of longer wavelength and can
of gravity anomalies over continental rifts, although be approximately removed without serious error. In
direct methods have also been used especially in the past, such gravity interpretations have been im-
flexural studies. portant in indicating the large thickness of low den-
Gravity modeling makes repeated use of the for- sity sediments characteristic of rift troughs and con-
ward problem of calculating the gravity anomaly of firming that they are bounded by normal faults (e.g.,
an arbitrary two- or three-dimensional body. An ini- Girdler, 1964; Zorin, 1971; Kahle and Werner, 1980;
tial geologic model is hypothesized and its anomaly Keller et al., 1991). However, the gravity method
Potential field methods 95

has now been mainly superseded by seismic reflec- geophysical literature. Recent examples are the stud-
tion studies for investigating the internal structure ies of ten Brink et al. (1993) in the Dead Sea basin
and subsurface shape of rift troughs. and Burov et al. (1994) in the north Baikal rift zone.
Gravity modeling has also been effectively used A further important use of the gravity method in
to assess crustal and upper mantle structure beneath rift studies is to assess the state and mechanism of
continental rift systems. The short wavelength ef- isostasy. Other geophysical methods cannot give this
fect of shallow structure such as sediment filled information. The most obvious application is in dis-
troughs needs first to be removed (or incorporated cussion of the long wavelength negative Bouguer
in the model). The Bouguer anomaly can then be anomalies which occur over the broad domal uplifts
interpreted in terms of variation in Moho depth, den- associated with many of the present rift systems.
sity anomalies within the crust above the Moho, and Thus, the East African Plateau is 1300 km wide,
lateral variations in the density of the upper mantle. about 1200 m high on average, and has a negative
Characteristically, the Moho beneath an active rift Bouguer anomaly peaking at about-200 mGal over
system shallows as a result of crustal stretching, there the eastern rift system. The negative Bouguer
may be dense intrusions within the crust (e.g., Searle, anomaly represents the low density isostatic support
1970), and the broad domal uplift characteristic of for the elevated topography (e.g., Girdler and
active continental rifts is commonly supported by a Sowerbutts, 1970; Fairhead, 1976). The isostatic
hot, low density region in the upper mantle usually support is demonstrably not caused by crustal thick-
associated with a plume head. Although the crustal ening and must be attributed to a substantial low
anomalies are generally of shorter wavelength than density region in the underlying upper mantle which
the upper mantle anomalies, the separation of the is thought to originate as a result of the thermal ef-
two contributions cannot be done uniquely. The best fects of a plume head.
approach is to use explosion seismology to define At shorter wavelengths in rift regions such as East
the crustal thickness and its variation, and to use the Africa, the correlation between gravity and topog-
gravity anomaly to refine the crustal model and to raphy is less obvious. This is because at shorter
determine the mantle anomaly, assuming a realistic wavelengths the surface and internal loads can be
density contrast. Gravity interpretation is thus wholly or partly supported by the strength of the elas-
complementary to teleseismic seismology in deter- tic lithosphere, so that flexural compensation occurs
mining the anomalous upper mantle which charac- which is dependent on wavenumber. Ebinger et al.
teristically underlies active rift systems. Of impor- (1989) have analyzed the flexural equilibrium of sub-
tance in relating the gravity to the seismic data are regions of the East African rift system to determine
empirical relationships between density and P-wave the variations of effective elastic plate thickness
velocity, although these break down when partial within the region. In order to carry out this analysis,
fusion is involved. An early example of the use of both topography and gravity are transformed to the
gravity to infer crustal and mantle structure beneath wavenumber domain using the two-dimensional fast
the East African rift system is given by Baker and Fourier transform. The coherence between topogra-
Wohlenberg (1970). A more recent evaluation of the phy and gravity can then be determined as a func-
gravity anomaly of the central East African rift sys- tion of wavenumber. The results can then be com-
tem (Nyblade and Pollack, 1992) shows that the pared with theoretical models and thus the best fit-
anomaly is caused not only by the rift-related modi- ting elastic plate thickness can be determined. The
fications to the crust and upper mantle, but also by resulting elastic plate thickness was found to be
regional pre-rift crustal sources associated with an above 65 km in the stable cratonic regions and within
ancient suture. Numerous other examples of the use the range of 21 to 36 km below the active Ethiopian,
of gravity modeling to investigate the crustal struc- Kenya and western rift systems. Intermediate val-
ture of modern continental rifts and to speculate on ues were obtained in uplifted regions which are un-
mechanisms for rifting from the models exist in the
96 M.H.P. Bott and W.J. Hinze

faulted. The thinning of the elastic plate in the re- minerals) content in rocks within the outermost 50
gions of active rifting is attributable to the raised km shell of the Earth, and can thus be used for geo-
temperatures in the crust and lithosphere. logical purposes. Most modern mapping of the geo-
Gravity studies have also had an important role magnetic field for exploration purposes makes use
in identifying and studying the crustal structure of of aeromagnetic surveying and total field anomalies
ancient rifts (Keller et al., 1983). These rifts are com- are normally measured for simplicity. Ground sur-
monly characterized by a present-day thickened crust veys can be carried out for follow up detail or for
probably as a result of underplating during the rift- other local exploration purposes. The geomagnetic
ing process which results in a broad negative grav- field at long wavelengths can be determined by sat-
ity anomaly. This negative, at least in part, is coun- ellite magnetometry.
teracted by the positive gravity anomaly associated The geomagnetic total field value varies from
with pervasive mantle-derived intrusions into the about 20,000 nT (nannoTesla) at low latitudes to
lower crust over a region that extends well beyond about 60,000 nT in the vicinity of the poles. The
the limits of the surface graben. Such is the case in common instrument for measuring total field anoma-
the New Madrid Rift which coincides with the axis lies is the proton precession magnetometer which
of the Mississippi Embayment. The resulting broad measures absolute values. It has a typical accuracy
positive anomaly is marked by an axial negative of about 1 nT which is adequate for most purposes.
gravity anomaly caused by the less-dense sedimen- More sensitive alkali vapor magnetometers can im-
tary rocks of the hidden graben beneath the prove the accuracy by over an order of magnitude
Embayment sediments (Hildenbrand, 1985). Still for precision surveying.
other ancient rifts, such as the Midcontinent Rift Magnetometer observations need to be corrected
Systems of central North America (Hinze et al., for short period variations of the geomagnetic field
1992) are profound positive gravity anomalies due caused by ionospheric currents and associated in-
to mantle-derived mafic volcanic rocks that fill the duced currents within the Earth. This is best done
grabens and spill out beyond the margins. The inter- by setting up a base station to record the variations
pretation of these gravity anomalies is far from within the survey area. Correction for the long wave-
unique, but reflection seismic studies over the past length variations with latitude and longitude, which
few decades (Zhu and Brown, 1986; Chandler et al., include the dipole and non-dipole fields which origi-
1989; Hinze et al., 1990) show that the volcanic rocks nate within the core and in vicinity of the core-mantle
of the rifts contain numerous reflection events and boundary, can be made by subtracting the Interna-
thus these seismic data can be used to constrain the tional Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) from the
gravity interpretation. Allen et al. (1992) have shown observed total field value. The IGRF is updated ev-
that the 1100 Ma old Midcontinent Rift centered on ery five years to account for the secular variation in
Lake Superior is a broad topographic high which is the geomagnetic field. There is a small decrease of
isostatically compensated by an underplated crust the field with height, but the correction is only ap-
or depleted upper mantle associated with this ancient plied for high precision work. The resulting mag-
rifting event. The topographic feature is believed to netic anomalies reflect lateral variation in the mag-
be a vestige of a broad domal uplift that originated netic polarization within the outermost shell of the
at the time of rifting which was associated with a Earth, extending down to the depth of the Curie point
mantle plume. temperature (50 km or less), beneath which the rocks
are effectively non-magnetic.
3C.4. The magnetic exploration method
Lateral variations of the geomagnetic field on a
scale of less than a few thousand kilometers are
caused by variations in the magnetite (and related
Potential fieM methods 97

3C.5. Interpretation of magnetic anomalies magnetic anomalies mainly (although not entirely)
reflect the structure of the pre-rift basement rocks.
Magnetic interpretation methods are closely simi- The sedimentary rift troughs generally correspond
lar in many ways to those used for gravity interpre- to negative magnetic anomalies (reflecting their
tation. This is because both gravity and magnetic weak magnetization?). Local anomalies occur over
anomalies can be derived from scalar potential fields the rift basalts. The magnetic anomalies here also
which satisfy Laplaces's equation. However, mag- indicate that the magnetic layer above the Curie point
netic interpretation is generally more complicated temperature is thinned as a result of raised tempera-
in that the basic gravitational unit is a point mass tures. The upwarped Curie isotherm beneath the Rio
(monopole) whereas the basic magnetic unit is a di- Grande Rift (Mayhew, 1982) has also been mapped
pole. This means that the causative magnetic bodies with satellite magnetic anomaly data. These satel-
are not as closely related to the anomalies they cause lite data have also been used to map aulacogens (e.g.,
as they are in gravity. Consequently the process of Longacre et al., 1982). Magnetic anomaly data have
modeling (indirect method) is less straightforward been used to map the sinistral strike-slip motion on
to apply, although this can be overcome by using the Dead Sea Rift by evaluating the displacement of
non-linear computer inversion techniques. A further magnetic anomalies across the rift (Hatcher et al.,
complication in magnetics is that the direction of 1981). Further, the buffed New Madrid Rift has been
magnetization is not necessarily along the direction mapped by the attenuated magnetic anomaly pattern
of the present Earth's field, due to the presence of over the graben and the marginal magnetic anoma-
remanent as well as induced magnetization. The lies associated with rift-related intrusives
parametric method is widely used for interpretation (Hildenbrand, 1985). Magnetic anomalies have been
of anomalies in terms of dikes, and the direct meth- especially useful in mapping buried segments of the
ods such as upward continuation apply to magnetics Midcontinent Rift System (Hinze et al., 1966; King
as well as to gravity. and Zietz, 1971) because of the strong remanent
Magnetic anomalies are nearly all caused by the magnetization of the associated mafic volcanic rocks.
presence of magnetite and related minerals in rocks, More recently (Chandler et al., 1989; Mariano and
although the presence of a few other minerals such Hinze, 1994) have successfully modeled the com-
as pyrrhotite locally also give rise to significant plex remanent magnetization of the volcanic rocks
anomalies. As most sedimentary rocks (with occa- of the Midcontinent Rift in combination with grav-
sional exceptions) do not contain significant amounts ity and seismic reflection data leading to improved
of magnetite or other magnetic minerals, these rocks structure and stratigraphic interpretation of the gra-
are usually effectively non-magnetic. Igneous rocks, bens of the rift.
especially those of mafic and ultramafic composi-
tion, are typically more strongly magnetic and may
possess strong remanent magnetization reflecting the 3C.6. References
field direction at the time of formation. Metamor-
Allen, D.J., Hinze, W.J., and Cannon, W.E, 1992. Drainage, to-
phic rocks are variably magnetic and as a result the
pographic, and gravity anomalies in the Lake Superior re-
pattern of magnetic anomalies generally reveals the gion: Evidence for a I100 Ma mantle plume. Geophys. Res.
basement strike direction even when overlain by Lett., 19: 2119-2122.
sediments. In such a situation, the depth to the mag- Baker, B.H., and Wohlenberg, J., 1970. Structure and evolution
netic basement can be estimated using simple para- of the Kenya Rift Valley. Nature, 229: 538-542.
BuUard, E.C., 1936. Gravity measurements in East Africa. Philos.
metric methods or by using the Fourier spectrum.
Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. A, 235: 445-531.
Magnetic surveys have been carried out in conti- Burov, E.B., Houdry, E, Diament, M., and Deverchue, J., 1994.
nental rift zones, although the significance of the A broken plate beneath the North Baikal rift zone revealed
resulting interpretations falls far short of the contri- by gravity modeling. Geophys. Res. Lett., 21: 129-132.
bution from gravity. An example is the application Chandler, V.W., McSwiggen, EL., Morey, G.B., Hinze, W.J., and
Anderson, R.L., 1989. Interpretation of seismic reflection,
to the Baikal rift zone (Novoselova, 1978). Here the
gravity and magnetic data across the Middle Proterozoic
98 M.H.P. Bott and Wd. Hinze

Midcontinent Rift System in western Wisconsin, eastern Min- Keller, G.R., Lidiak, E.G., Hinze, W.J., and Braile, L.W., 1983.
nesota, and central Iowa. Am. Assoc. Pet. Geol. Bull., 73: The role of rifting in the tectonic development of the
261-275. Midcontinent, U.S.A. Tectonophysics, 94:391-412.
Ebinger, C.J., Bechtel, T.D., Forsyth, D.W., and Bowin, C.O., Keller, G.R., Khan, M.A., Morgan, P., Wendlandt, R.F.,
1989. Effective elastic plate thickness beneath the East Afri- Baldridge, W.S., Olsen, K.H., Prodehl, C., and Braile, L.W.,
can and Afar Plateaus and dynamic compensation of the up- 1991. A comparative study of the Rio Grande and Kenya rifts.
lifts. J. Geophys. Res., 94: 2883-2901. Tectonophysics, 197: 355-371.
Fairhead, J.D., 1976. The structure of the lithosphere beneath King, E.R., and Zietz, I., 1971. Aeromagnetic study of the
the eastern rift, East Africa, deduced from gravity studies. Midcontinent Gravity High of central United States. Geol.
Tectonophysics, 30: 269-298. Soc. Am. Bull., 82: 2187-2208.
Girdler, R.W., 1964. Geophysical studies of rift valleys. Physics Longacre, M.B., Hinze, W.J., and von Frese, R.R.B., 1982. A
Chem. Earth, 5: 121-156. satellite magnetic model of northeastern South American
Girdler, R.W., and Sowerbutts, W.T.C., 1970. Some recent geo- aulacogens. Geophys. Res. Lett., 9:318-321.
physical studies of the rift system in E. Africa. J. Geomagn. Mariano, J., and Hinze, W.J., 1994. Gravity and magnetic mod-
Geoelectr., 22: 153-163. els of the Midcontinent Rift in eastern Lake Superior. Can. J.
Hatcher, R.D., Jr., Zietz, I., Regan, R.D., Abu-Ajamieh, M., 1981. Earth Sci., 31: 661-674.
Sinistral strike-slip motion of the Dead Sea Rift: Confirma- Mayhew, M.A., 1982. Application of satellite magnetic anomaly
tion from new magnetic data. Geology, 9: 458-462. data to Curie isotherm mapping. J. Geophys. Res., 87: 4846-
Hildenbrand, T.G., 1985: Rift structure of the Northern Missis- 4854.
sippi Embayment from analysis of gravity and magnetic data. Novoselova, M.R., 1978. Magnetic anomalies of the Baikal rift
J. Geophys. Res., 90: 12607-12622. zone and adjacent areas. Tectonophysics, 45: 95-100.
Hinze, W.J., O'Hara, N.W., Trow, J.W., and Secor, G.B., 1966. Nyblade, A.A., and Pollack, H.N., 1992. A gravity model for the
Aeromagnetic studies of eastern Lake Superior. In: J.S. lithosphere in western Kenya and northeastern Tanzania.
Steinhart and T.J. Smith (Ed.). The Earth Beneath the Conti- Tectonophysics, 212: 257-267.
nents. Am. Geophys. Union Geophys. Monogr., 10: 95-110. Searle, R.C., 1970. Evidence from gravity anomalies for thin-
Hinze, W.J., Braile, L.W., and Chandler, V.W., 1990. A geophysi- ning of the lithosphere beneath the rift valley in Kenya.
cal profile of the southern margin of the Midcontinent Rift Geophys. J.R. astron. Soc., 21: 13-21.
System in western Lake Superior. Tectonics, 9:303-310. ten Brink, U.S., Ben-Avrahan, Z., Bell, R.E., Hassouneh, M.,
Hinze, W.J., Allen, D.J., Fox, A.J., Sunwoo, D., Woelk, T., and Coleman, D.E, Andreasen, G., Tibor, G., and Coakley, B.,
Green, A.G., 1992, Geophysical investigations and crustal 1993. Structure of the Dead Sea pull-apart basin from grav-
structure of the North American Midcontinent Rift System. ity analyses. J. Geophys. Res., 98:21877-21894.
Tectonophysics, 213, 17-32. Vening Meinesz, EA., 1950. Les grabens africains, r6sultat de
Kahle, H.-G., and Wemer, D., 1980. A geophysical study of the compression ou de tension dans la crofite terrestre? Bull. Inst.
Rhinegraben-II. Gravity anomalies and geothermal implica- R. Colonial Beige, 21: 539-552.
tions. Geophys. J.R. astron. Soc., 62: 631-647. Zhu, T., and Brown, L., 1986. Consortium for continental re-
flection profiling Michigan surveys: Reprocessing and results.
J. Geophys. Res., 91: 11477-11495.
Chapter 3D

Heat flow in rifts

P. M o r g a n

3D.1. Discussion The surface heat flow pattern in rift zones repre-
sents a number of components: 1) heat generated by
There is a superficial similarity in heat flow data radioactive decay of unstable isotopes in the crust;
from most Cenozoic continental rifts (Morgan, 2) heat conducted into the crust from the underlying
1982). They are characterized by a large scatter in mantle; 3) heat refracted in the crust by thermal con-
data, which typically range from near zero heat flow, ductivity structure; 4) heat advected into the crust
to values in excess of 150 mWm -2. Older rifts are by magmatism; 5) heat advected within the crust by
generally characterized by more uniform thermal tectonic deformation; and 6) heat redistributed in the
regimes, although anomalies located in the rifts, of uppermost crust by ground water flow. The first three
the order of + 20% background, have been reported. of these components comprise the surface heat flow
To understand the significance of these data it is in stable regions, and it is important to recognize
important to appreciate the factors which contribute that heat flow in stable regions can vary by a factor
to surface heat flow. of two or three, primarily due to variations in 1)
Heat flow data are a determination of near-sur- (Morgan, 1984). If paleo-rifts are defined as rifts in
face conductive heat flow. Temperature data are usu- which all transient thermal anomalies have decayed
ally collected in near-vertical bore holes, or in near- (Morgan and Ramberg, 1987), their heat flow anoma-
vertical probe penetrations of lake sediments, and lies are due to components 1) and 3), perhaps spa-
hence essentially only the vertical component of heat tially controlled by the rift structures. By this defi-
flow is determined. This restriction is not generally nition, paleo-rift thermal structure would be expected
important, except in regions of high relief or major in rifts which have not experienced tectonic or mag-
subsurface structure, because, to a first approxima- matic activity for at least the past 65 to 250 Ma (Mor-
tion, the earth's surface is isothermal and isotherms gan, 1984). In young rift zones, additional surface
are subparallel to the surface. Significant local de- heat flow anomalies may be expected due to a com-
partures from this approximation, and the effects of bination of increased heat flow from the underlying
changes in local surface conditions (climatic mantle, and some combination of components 4) to
changes, erosion and sedimentation), are generally 6). To understand rift evolution, it is important to be
compensated by individual data corrections (e.g., able to separate deep from shallow thermal sources
Jaeger, 1965). The most important limitation of heat for the surface heat flow. Some of this separation
flow data for analysis of rift processes is that the may be made by integration of other data sets with
data represent only the near-surface conductive heat surface heat flow, e.g., surface, seismic or electro-
flow.
100 P. Morgan

magnetic evidence for magmatism associated with tic of a deep thermal perturbation. However, heat
elevated heat flow. This section, however, deals only flow values less than about 25 mWm -2 are only ex-
with the thermal aspects of this problem. pected where there is downward advection of heat.
The first task in analysis of heat flow data associ- Heat flow values in excess of 125 mWm -2 yield
ated with rifting is to determine whether or not an steady-state conductive predictions of the geotherm
anomalous heat source is associated with rifting. that exceed the crustal solidus above the Moho, and
Although surface heat flow anomalies may be asso- can only be explained by transient thermal models,
ciated with the rift, the spatially averaged heat flow and/or models with crustal heat sources or advec-
from the rift may be indistinguishable from the spa- tion.
tially averaged regional heat flow adjacent to the rift. If anomalous local heat flow is evident, its source
If the rift floor and rift flank average heat flow val- may be evident through an examination of the spa-
ues are indistinguishable, we must conclude that ei- tial relationship of the anomaly with other features
ther no significant deep thermal source is associated in the rift. High heat flow spatially associated with
with rifting, or that the thermal source is younger young volcanism is an obvious example of an ad-
than the characteristic time for thermal conduction vective crustal heat source. Less obvious, but very
to produce a surface anomaly for the source depth. common, is the spatial redistribution of heat by
This characteristic time varies as the square of source ground water flow. This redistribution can occur in
depth, and varies from about 17 Ma for the base of a rifts with significant thermal anomalies, such as the
30 km thick crust, to about 65 Ma for the base of a Rio Grande rift (Morgan et al., 1986), or to produce
100-km-thick lithosphere (Lachenbruch and Sass, localized anomalies in rifts without significant ther-
1977). Thus, lack of an average surface heat flow mal anomalies, such as the Baikal rift (Lysak, 1984)
anomaly associated with a rift is not alone diagnos- and the Rhinegraben (Clauser, 1987). These local
tic of the presence or absence of a heat flow source anomalies of shallow origin give the Baikal rift and
at depth. the Rhinegraben a superficial thermal signature that
Spatial averaging of surface heat flow data is not is similar to the rifts with significant anomalies of
a trivial task, primarily due to incomplete, and/or deeper origin (~. Morgan, 1982). Great care must
spatially aliased coverage of the data. Bore holes are be taken to determine the sources of the anomalies
rarely drilled specifically for heat flow measure- before extrapolations are made about the deep ther-
ments, and are generally sited for alternative eco- mal structure of rift zones.
nomic reasons, such as oil, mineral, or water explo- Thermal anomalies resulting from, or accompa-
ration or production. An adequate data set may not nying tectonic deformation within the lithosphere
therefore exist for reliable spatial averaging. If the have been used to constrain the mode of rifting and
data set is inadequate, other indications of anomaly deep processes in rifting (e.g., Lachenbruch and
source depth must be used. Sass, 1978; McKenzie, 1978). These anomalies are
Information concerning the source of surface heat the most important anomalies to isolate when con-
flow anomalies can be obtained from the magnitude sidering rifting models, but the complex time-space
of the anomaly, and/or the spatial association of the interactions of deep thermal sources with the sur-
anomaly with other surface features (or from asso- face (Morgan, 1983), and the masking of these
ciation with other geological or geophysical data sets anomalies by more shallow sources, generally make
if available). Heat flow in stable regions typically these anomalies alone poor constraints upon mod-
averages from about 40 to 55 mWm -2. Heat flow may els of rifting processes (Morgan and Baker, 1983;
be as low as about 30 mWm -2 in mafic terranes with Ramberg and Morgan, 1984). Combined with other
little crustal radiogenic heat production, up to about geological and geophysical information, however,
100 mWm -2 in terranes with a thick, high heat-pro- they can place important constraints upon the pro-
duction component of granitic plutons. Thus, heat cesses of rifting.
flow inside the range 30 to 100 mWm -2 cannot, on
its own, be unambiguously recognized as diagnos-
Heat flow in rifts 101

3D.2. References McKenzie, D. P., 1978. Some remarks on the development of


sedimentary basins. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 40: 25-32.
Clauser, C., 1987. Conductive and convective heat flow in the Morgan, E, 1982. Heat flow in rift zones. In: G. Palmasson (ed.),
northern Upper Rhinegraben - can they be separated? Inter- Continental and Oceanic Rifts, Geological Society of America
national Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, XIX General and American Geophysical Union, Geodynamics Series, 8:
Assembly, Vancouver, Canada, August 9-22, 1987, Abstracts, 107-122.
v. 1, U8-18: 77. Morgan, E, 1983. Constraints on rift thermal processes from heat
Jaeger, J. C., 1965. Application of the theory of heat conduction flow and uplift, Tectonophysics, 94: 277-298.
to geothermal measurements. In: W. H. K. Lee (ed.), Terres- Morgan, P., 1984. The thermal structure and thermal evolution
trial Heat Flow, American Geophysical Union, Geophysical of the continental lithosphere. Phys. Chem. Earth., 15:107-
Monograph 7: 7-23. 193.
Lachenbruch, A. H., and J. H. Sass, 1977. Heat flow and the Morgan, E and B. H. Baker, 1983. Introduction- processes of
thermal regime of the crust. In: J. G. Heacock (ed.), The continental rifting. Tectonophysics, 94: 1-10.
Earth's Crust, Its Nature and Physical Properties, American Morgan, E, and I. B. Ramberg, 1987. Physical changes in the
Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph 20: 626-675. lithosphere associated with thermal relaxation after rifting,
Lachenbruch, A. H., and J. H. Sass, 1978. Models of an extend- Tectonophysics, 143: 1-11.
ing lithosphere and heat flow in the Basin and Range prov- Morgan, P., V. Harder, and T. H. Giordano, 1986. Heat and fluid
ince. In: R. B. Smith and G. E Eaton (eds.), Cenozoic Tec- flow in the Rio Grande rift: a possible modem thermal ana-
tonics and Regional Geophysics of the Western Cordillera, logue of a Mississippi Valley type ore-forming system. In:
Geological Society of America, Memoir 152" 209-250. R. W. Nesbitt and I. Nichol (eds.), Geology in the Real
Lysak, S. V.,1984. Terrestrial heat flow in the south of East Si- World--the Kingsley Dunham Volume, Inst. Mining and
beria. Tectonophysics, 103:205-215. Metallurgy, 295-305.
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Chapter 3E

Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment

G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. O l s e n

3E.1. Introduction method. MT exploration of the Earth has evolved to


the status of a mature science during the past two
It is no exaggeration to say that surface measure- decades with the advent of digital instrumentation,
ments of deep electrical resistivity may hold the key real-time processing, and sophisticated, robust analy-
to understanding how continental rifts develop. This sis techniques showing increasing promise for in-
is so because low resistivities detected in the mid- terpreting complex, three-dimensional (3-D) electri-
to-lower crust in rift zones reflect conditions that cal structures in the Earth. MT and other
control the strain rate, and therefore, the style and geoelectromagnetic methods are probably the least
extent of tectonic deformation. Although low understood of geophysical techniques. This results
resistivities in active continental rifts probably are in the humorous expectation among MT practitio-
associated with fluids (either water and/or magma), ners of the "MT (empty) stare", a look on colleagues'
it is their origin, their accumulation, and their influ- faces when the conversation turns to MT results.
ence that are critical. For example, is the strength of Magnetellurics is the recording and study of natu-
the lithosphere (and its brittle-ductile profile with rally occurring electric and magnetic fields at the
depth) dominantly controlled by accumulations of Earth's surface. The object of MT is to map the elec-
high pressure H20-C02 pore fluids, and, if so, what trical properties of the Earth from the surface to
are the origins of these fluids? By better defining many tens of km and to relate these geoelectric prop-
the depth and lateral extent of conductive occur- erties to the physical state and the tectonic processes
rences in the crust and by carefully contrasting them that deform the Earth. There are many everyday ex-
with other geophysical measurements, important amples of electromagnetic (EM) radiation such as
constraints on deep physical conditions will follow. radio waves, microwaves, and visible light itself
Attempts at such syntheses are not new, e.g., Gar- (Fig. 3E-l). These common phenomena are at fre-
land (1975), Hermance (1982), Haak and Hatton quencies much higher than those used in most MT
(1986), and Keller (1989) have made this effort, but applications and, except for celestial light sources,
it is clear that many new correlations are very im- the examples above are of man-made origin. There
portant (e.g., Jodicke, 1992; Jones, 1992; Hyndman are several electromagnetic geophysical techniques
et al., 1993; Jiracek, 1995) and others will be forth- that use transmitted energy from man-made sources
coming as research continues. (so-called active sources). Indeed, there are forms
In this contribution we provide a self-contained of MT that use controlled sources; however, to probe
but brief overview of the principal technique used deep into the Earth, much more powerful energy
to derive the deep subsurface distribution of electri- sources at low frequencies are required. The sun is
cal resistivity--namely the magnetotelluric (MT) the major passive source for this application. A dis-
104 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

FREQUENCY (Hz)
10 -4 10 4 10 8 10 TM 10 TM 10 20

10 TM 10 8 104 1 10 4 10 -8 10 "12

WAVELENGTH (m)
I
MICRO AUDIO RADIO MICRO II INFRA
PULSATIONS FREQ WAVES WAVES II RED
~ v

VLF VHF EHF


~91"-'-X-RAYS
MAGNETO - " - - " - I ~ VISIBLE
TELLURICS LIGHT

Fig. 3E-1. Twenty-four decades of the electromagnetic spectrum. Abbreviations, VLF, VHF, and EHF designate very low frequency,
very high frequency, and extremely high frequency bands, respectively. The magnetoteUuric frequency range extends from about 10-
4 to 10*4 Hz.

advantage of a passive source is that it cannot be change embraces the end member processes of EM
controlled by the experimenter. For example, MT propagation, namely displacement currents and con-
measurements must depend on the uncertain energy duction currents, respectively. This chapter discusses
levels in solar emissions. the physics of these consequences and how they are
When EM fields from any source encounter an used in practice to apply the MT method. In the first
obstacle such as the Earth, some energy penetrates sections below, we try to provide a non-specialist
(transmits) and some reflects. The reflected waves geoscientist with a working knowledge of the MT
constructively and destructively interfere with the method and its terminology. Then, these basic MT
incident waves, and the transmitted waves are at- principles are applied both to synthetic and to ac-
tenuated before they reflect from subsurface tual continental rift data in order to illustrate the
discontinuities. The Earth is a much better electri- value and limitations of the method. Finally, we ad-
cal conductor than air so the total electric field mea- dress the ultimate question of what derived resistiv-
sured at the surface by MT is nearly zero because ity values may mean through a discussion of pos-
there is near cancellation of the incident field by the sible connections between the geoelectric results and
reflected field. The magnitude of the reflected elec- the rheology of continental rifts. The focus will be
tric field is a very large proportion (nearly 100%) of on findings from the lithosphere (mainly the crust)
the incident field. The consequence is that the trans- where excellent data have been accumulated during
mitted electric field is only a tiny fraction of the in- the last 15 years. Results from deeper~in the as-
cident field. Fortunately this fraction is not zero, thenosphere--are equally important, and historically
otherwise there would be no MT method. As it is, were the first to be reported. However, most recent
the wave propagation mechanism changes at the MT studies have targeted the crust where correla-
Earth's surface from that which dominates in an in- tions with other geophysical data have been particu-
sulator (the air) to that which dominates in a con- larly rewarding.
ductor (the Earth). The technical description of this
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 105

3E.2. Magnetotelluric measurements tions between the solar wind (charged particles
ejected from the Sun) and the Earth's magnetosphere.
The MT method is a relatively new geophysical In particular, the continuous and irregular pulsations
technique. The first paper on MT was written less of the solar wind change the shape and size of the
than 50 years ago by the distinguished Soviet aca- magnetosphere and cause it to vibrate like an extra-
demician, A.N. Tikhonov (1950). Even so, the fun- terrestrial jello. The resulting complex hydromag-
damentals of the method are a direct consequence netic waves are a major source of MT energy in a
of the classical electromagnetic (EM) theory estab- broad frequency band between 1 and about 10-4 Hz
lished more than 100 years ago by the work of Am- (Fig. 3E-1). Energy in hydromagnetic waves is trans-
pere, Faraday, and Maxwell. Tikhonov's (1950) formed into propagating electromagnetic waves af-
seminal contribution was to show that, at low fre- ter passing through the electrically conductive,
quencies, the spatial derivative of the horizontal anisotropic ionosphere. This interaction forms large
component of the Earth's magnetic field (It) is pro- horizontal sheets of current in the ionosphere. In-
portional to the orthogonal component of the elec- deed, current systems of the daily variation are lit-
tric field (E) [vector quantities are shown in bold- erally of hemispherical proportions.
face]. He used previously published diurnal H data Electromagnetic energy from lightning discharges
from magnetic observatories at Tucson, Arizona, around the world propagates in an atmospheric
USA, and from Zui, USSR, to estimate the thick- waveguide formed by the Earth and the ionosphere.
ness and electrical conductivity of the crust at these This waveguide has resonance frequencies where
sites. The first western paper on MT was published energy is enhanced; e.g., the first Schumann reso-
by Cagniard (1953) in which he developed the for- nance at 7.8 Hz has a wavelength equal to the cir-
mulas relating E and H on the surface of a layered cumference of the Earth. At frequencies of about 2
medium with an incident plane wave. The works of kHz, the waveguide is absorbing and energy in the
Tikhonov and Cagniard form the basis of one-dimen- natural electromagnetic spectrum is very low.
sional (l-D) MT analysis and this is often referred The physics of the interactions of the solar wind
to as the Tikhonov-Cagniard model. with the Earth's magnetosphere/ionosphere and the
The practicality of the Tikhonov-Cagniard model propagation of energy from distant lightning dis-
of MT was soon challenged by Wait (1954), who charges is the subject of considerable research. Clear
argued that the proportionality between orthogonal introductory discussions appear in Rokityansky
E and H fields at the Earth's surface was valid only (1982) and Vozoff (1991). From the standpoint of
if the source fields do not vary appreciably over a applying the MT method, there must be sufficient
characteristic distance called the skin depth (skin energy in the MT frequency band (Fig. 3E-l) and
depth will be rigorously defined later). Madden and the incident plane wave assumption of the Tikhonov-
Nelson (1964) came to the defense of the Tikhonov- Cagniard model must be valid. The latter is a funda-
Cagniard model by showing that when the source's mental assumption in applying the MT method; its
horizontal wavelength is much greater than the skin validity depends on the location, size, and complex-
depth, as it is for the Earth, the model remains valid. ity of the source fields and their distances from the
Later, Dmitriev and Berdichevsky (1979) further observation site. For example, a location at high
proved that the horizontal magnetic field components magnetic latitudes (auroral latitudes) on the Earth's
need not be uniform, but can vary linearly over a surface would be inappropriate during times of in-
layered earth. tense magnetic storms, but a mid-latitude site might
Magnetotelluric source fields can be classified as be acceptable at the same time. Measurements taken
originating either from lightning or from solar ac- during nearby thunderstorm activity would not meet
tivity. Roughly speaking, fields below a frequency the plane wave criterion, whereas waves from dis-
of 1 Hz are caused by the Sun; above 1 Hz, fields tant lightning can be properly treated as incident
are due to worldwide thunderstorm activity. Fields plane waves.
due to solar activity result from complex interac-
106 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

therefore, that enables practical use of the MT


method is to take time measurements of E and H,
convert them into their frequency representations,
and then compute the E/H ratios. The conversion
from time to frequency domain measurements is
usually done by Fourier transforming via a computer
algorithm such as the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT).
Physical measurements of the E and H fields are
commonly made as shown schematically in Figure
3E-2. Orthogonal, horizontal E fields are recorded
by measuring the time-varying potential differences
(voltages) between two nonpolarizing electrodes at
the surface of the Earth. The ratio of these voltages
divided by the horizontal distances (typically a few
100 m) are approximations of the Exand Ey time-
varying fields. Three perpendicular components of
magnetic fields are normally obtained using induc-
tion coils which yield the time derivatives of the
magnetic x, y, and z fields. Upon integration, one
obtains the required Hx, Hy, and Hz time-varying
fields. Magnetic fields can be measured directly by
Fig. 3E-2. Magnetotelluric field layout with schematic SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference
incident, reflected, and transmitted propagating electromag- Device) magnetometers, as was common in the late
netic fields (redrawn from Sternberg et al., 1984).
1970s and early 1980s, but more recently, the de-
velopment of highly sensitive, low noise induction
The E and H fields measured at the surface of the coils has largely replaced SQUID measurements.
Earth are samples of a stochastic (random) process
since the solar wind and lightning activity are ran-
dom variables of time and space. Therefore, the col- 3E.3. Basic magnetotelluric principles
lection of all possible field measurements is un- Simple manipulation of Maxwell's equations
known and infinite since we have no exact spatial- (Faraday's and Ampere's laws) together with the
temporal knowledge of the underlying processes. constitutive relations for a homogeneous linear iso-
Thus, at first it appears that the best one could hope tropic medium yields the general electromagnetic
for with such measurements would be statistical es- (EM) wave equation for the time-varying vector E
timates of desired quantities. For example, only sta- field in charge-free regions (e.g., Ward and
tistical probabilities can be used to describe the fi- Hohmann, 1988),
nite, known samples in the process of throwing a
single die with six faces. If such were the case with
V2E = , / 2 0 " ~ + g tgt2 j . (1)
MT measurements, the method would be of very lim-
ited value. What is needed to derive deterministic Here, ~ is the magnetic permeability (in henrys/
quantities is a measure--or measures~that when m, H/m), tr is the electric conductivity (in siemens/
recorded now are the same as they were in the past m, S/m), and e is the electric permittivity (in farads/
or as they will be in the future. Clearly, the E and H m, F/m); these are the physical quantities that de-
fields themselves do not satisfy this property which scribe the EM properties of a material. In most geo-
is called statistical stationarity. Fortunately, there physical EM applications, p can be assumed to have
are such quantities in the MT case; they are the spec- its free space value, ~o, and, as we shall soon see,
tral ratios of the E to H field components. The "trick" the permittivity term in Eq. 1 can be neglected. This
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 107

places the ultimate emphasis on the conductivity as


k = (-i o'/zco)1/2 = (O'jU(.0) 1/2 e'-i~14
the principal diagnostic electrical parameter for the
Earth. For purely traditional reasons geophysicists
usually report the reciprocal of the conductivity
which is the resistivity, p. Resistivity units are ohm-
meters (ohm-m) since the siemen and the ohm are The wave equation (Eq. 1) now has only a first
reciprocal units. Because, for practical reasons men- partial time derivative term. Physically, it becomes
tioned earlier, we want the E and H values as func- a diffusion equation of the same form that governs
tions of frequency, it is convenient to immediately the diffusion of heat through a solid. Electrical con-
write the equivalent of the wave equation in the fre- ductivity in the Earth measured by MT is mainly due
quency domain. This is obtained by Fourier time to ionic fluids such as saline water or magma. The
transforming Eq. 1 to yield dominant conduction currents proceed by the diffu-
sion of ions through these fluids.
(V2 + k Z ) E ( x , y,z, co)= O . (2)
This is called the Helmholtz equation where E is 9Normally incident plane wave approximation
now a function of the angular frequency co, equal to
2nf, where f is frequency in hertz (Hz). The factor k In the above preliminary discussion of MT source
is called the complex propagation "constant" or fields, it was stated that the Tikhonov-Cagniard
wave number in the medium,
model assumes that a plane wave is incident upon
the Earth's surface. We now add the requirement that
the plane wave be normally incident. This is cer-
k = co e-i # . (3)
tainly not true of waves from all sources which are
The corresponding wave and Helmholtz equations superimposed to form the resultant at a given mea-
for the vector H field are exactly as in Eqs. 1 and 2 surement site at a given time. However, because the
upon substitution of H for E. Some researchers use Earth is such a good conductor (i.e., the quasistatic
the magnetic induction, B, instead of H via the con- approximation holds), all waves, irrespective of their
stitutive relation B =/~H. incoming directions are refracted very nearly verti-
We are now prepared to state the two major as- cally (normally) into the Earth. This condition, which
sumptions of the MT method. These are: is the essence of Madden and Nelson's (1964) de-
fense of the Tikhonov-Cagniard model, validates the
9Quasistatic approximation second assumption and greatly simplifies computer
modeling of the MT response of the Earth.
The quasistatic approximation results from as-
suming that the cr term in k (Eq. 3) dominates over 3E.3.1. Homogeneous half-space
the c term. That is, o'>>oge. Physically, this states
that electrical conduction currents are always very With a plane wave normally incident on a homo-
much larger than electrical displacement currents. geneous half-space, the E and H fields are constant
Conduction currents are the familiar type as in house- in direction and magnitude over planes perpendicu-
hold wiring which give rise to so-called ohmic loss lar to the vertical, downward +z, direction of propa-
or heating. Displacement currents are loss-free, tem- gation. Taking E in the x direction and H in the y
poral variations in E fields which explain how an direction, the Helmholtz equation becomes an ordi-
EM field (e.g., light) can propagate through a nary differential equation with solution
vacuum. The quasistatic approximation states that E x (z) = E o e +-'kz . (5)
the Earth behaves as a good conductor (poor insu- Here, Eo is a constant which is the magnitude of
lator) at the frequencies used in MT. An important Ex at z = 0. The minus sign is chosen in the exponent
consequence of the quasistatic approximation is that to insure that the fields decrease with propagation
the complex propagation constant, k, now has real in the +z direction in the Earth. Therefore, in a ho-
and imaginary parts of identical magnitude, i.e.,
108 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

IEx (z=o)l values for 5, Z, and v will be calculated, but first we


Surface ---~ ~..~.~,~----~~ Ex consider the "trick", a parameter called the charac-
z = ~5= ~/2r~ m ~f~,-" teristic impedance, that allows the MT method to
llZ/5 work.
z rtS=X/2-- '1' -/
As mentioned earlier, it is the spectral (frequency
domain) ratios of the fields that are invariant (sto-
Z 2rt8 -"
chastically stationary) in MT. These ratios are the
MT response of the Earth, and in the case appropri-
ate to Eq. 5, we define the characteristic impedance,
Z, of a medium as the spectral ratio E~(co)/Hy(co).
Since the dimensions of E and H are V/m and A/m,
respectively, we see that this spectral ratio has units
Fig. 3E-3. Exponential attenuation of sinusoidal variation of of impedance, namely ohms. Using the expression
Ex as a function of propagation in the +z direction. Ex for Ex (Eq. 5) and Maxwell's "curl-of-E" equation
magnitudes are approximately 37%, 4%, and 0.2% of the
(i.e., Faraday's law) with an exp(+icot) time depen-
surface value at depths of a skin depth, 5, a half wavelength,
M2, and one wavelength, Z, respectively. dency yields
E (co) _ co 0 (8)
z(co) = H (co) - - - 7 "
mogeneous medium both the E and the H fields de-
crease exponentially, and at a depth equal to 1/lImkl The characteristic impedance of free space (cr =
the field amplitudes are reduced to 1/e of their val- 0, po=47rx 10-7 H/m, and Eo= (1/36zr) x 10-9 F/m),
ues at z = 0. This depth, where the field decreases to is the well-known result, Zo = (lao/Eo)u2 -376.6 ohms.
about 37% of the surface value, is called the skin It is also very illustrative to calculate the character-
depth, 5, istic impedance and other parameters for a typical
MT situation on a continental land surface. Conse-
5=.L 2 . (6) quently, with T = 100 s and p = 100 ohm-m, Eqs. 7,
~//(o 8, and subsequent discussion following Eq. 7 yield
In practical units, this equation becomes
Re Z = Im Z ~ 0.002 ohms
8 = o . s p ~ [kin] (7)
5--50 km
after substituting 4zr x 10-7 henries/m for Po and
co = 27r/T, where T is the period of the incident field. ~ 310 km
SI units are used on the fight side of Eq. 7, i.e., p in v ~ 3 km/s.
ohm-m and T in s, but the resulting units of 5 are At this same frequency the wavelength in free
km. The skin depth, Eq. 7, is probably the most space is 3 x 10 +7 km, or over 2000 times the diam-
widely employed practical equation in MT since it eter of the Earth!
is used to give a rough estimate of the depth of ex- We now explore the useful extensions of the con-
ploration. However, the skin depth equation is cept of characteristic impedance to surface measure-
strictly true only for a homogeneous half-space and ments where the Earth is homogeneous, l-D, and
the real Earth is never so simple. Figure 3E-3 illus- finally, multi-dimensional.
trates the spatial attenuation expressed by the skin
depth and how 5 relates to the wave length, Z, of the
downward propagating wave. Since the real and 3E3.2. Measurements at the surface of a homo-
imaginary parts of k have equal magnitudes (Eq. 4), geneous half-space
and Re k = 27r/Z for any propagating wave, this
means that l = 2pS. Furthermore, since the phase Figure 3E-4a schematically depicts a plane wave
velocity of a propagating wave is defined as v = Zf, normally incident upon a homogeneous half-space;
then v is equal to 2rcSf. Shortly, some representative the wave number k can be considered as a vector
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 109

pointed in the direction of propagation. Superscripts


', ", and 'denote incident, reflected, and transmitted =Ex Incident W a v e Reflected W a v e
i i r H r
E and H fields, respectively. Applying the boundary E x , Hy Ex , y
conditions that tangential E and It fields must be
k
continuous across the boundary (surface of the Earth) Surface
it is straightforward (e.g., Ward and Hohmann, 1988) Transmitted Wave
to show that the transmission coefficient is given by a t H t
Ex , y

T(ro)=E'x ( 2Z~ ) (9)


e-S = z0 + z, '
and the reflection coefficient is

R(co) = Exr
= ( Z1-ZO ) . z=0
(10)
Pl thl
Ex Z 1 "4-Z 0
Zo and Z~ are the characteristic impedances of free
P2 h~
space and the homogeneous half-space, respectively.
Similar equations can be derived for the transmitted
PB hn ~ oo
and reflected H fields. For example, the reflection b
coefficient for the H field is {(Zo-Z~)/(Zo +Z~)}.
Reflection and transmission coefficients are very
important because they describe the amplitude and
phase of the reflected and transmitted fields. Those
familiar with linear systems will recognize Eq. 9 and Fig. 3E-4.(a) Normally incident, reflected, and transmitted,
Eq. 10 as the frequency domain representations of a plane waves at surface of a homogeneous half-space. E~, Hy,
linear system in which T(~) and R(co) take on the and the vector propagation "constant", k, form a right-handed
orthogonal set. (b) N-layered, 1-D Earth model.
roles of system response functions or transfer func-
tions. Note, also, that Z(ro) in Eq. 8 is a system re-
sponse function relating an input Hy(ro) to an output
Ex(ro). Because MT measurements are made at the
surface of the Earth we need to calculate the total E
and H fields at z = 0. This can be done using the =(CO#op)~e i'q' (12)
field representations either above (medium 0) or =lZ~le '~
below (medium 1) the surface and letting z = 0. Of
course, the total E or H fields above z = 0 have both It is customary to express surface impedance in
an incident and reflected component. The result of terms of its phase, ~,, and another quantity called
these manipulations when expressed as the ratio E~ the apparent resistivity. Solving for p in Eq. 12, a
H at z = 0 is called the surface impedance, Z,, complex quantity is avoided by defining a real quan-
tity, the apparent resistivity, Pa, as
Total E,, at z = 0
Zs = Total H~ a t z = 0 = Z~. (11)
Pa = 1 IZs 12. (13)
This important result states that the surface im- ~t0
pedance of a homogeneous half-space equals the The apparent resistivity, Pa, and the phase of the
characteristic impedance of the medium. The sur- surface impedance, q~,,as functions of frequency (or
face impedance is a complex function of frequency, period) are the MT response parameters most com-
and applying Eqs. 3 and 8, we find monly used in data presentations and interpretations.
110 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

For the case of a homogeneous half-space, these of the tanh functions. There are four asymptotic re-
quantities are equal to the to the true resistivity, p lations that contain the essential physics of the re-
and an impedance phase of 45" (from Eq. 12). sponse. These are:
Physical understanding of electromagnetic reflec- 1. For high frequencies (short periods) and/or
tion and transmission phenomena is enhanced by large h2, the response is that of the top layer. This
considering the approximate E and H relationships can be seen by noting that tanh(iklh2) ~ 1, and Eq.
at the surface of a homogeneous half-space with 14 becomes Z, ~ Z1 so p~ -~ p~.
Earth-like properties. The characteristic impedance 2. For low frequencies (long periods) and/or small
of the Earth (-0.002 ohms in the sample calculation h2, the response is that of the bottom layer, i.e., the
above) is very much smaller than that of the overly- basement. That is, tanh(ik2h2) ~ O, and Eq. 14 be-
ing atmosphere (nearly free space at 376.6 ohms). comes Z, ~ Z2 so p~ ~ P2.
In this case, the reflection coefficient (Eq. 10) is The remaining two asymptotic relations require
nearly equal to -1. A reflection coefficient o f - 1 us to make the so-called "thin-layer" approxima-
means that there is total reflection with a phase tion. This approximation hinges on the smallness of
change of zr; therefore, there would be total cancel- the argument ik~h~ of the tanh function so that the
lation of the incident electric field. If this were ex- function can be replaced simply by its argument. The
actly the case, there would be zero transmission (T product k~h~ is small if the skin depth (6~ = 1/IIm
= 0) and the MT method would be of no value for k~l) is large compared to h~. Thus, the thickness of a
probing the Earth. Similar manipulation of the equa- thin layer is small compared to its skin depth, and
tions as done here for E fields can be done for H since 6 = 2zrA,, a thin layer is one that is thin com-
fields, yielding the result that the reflection coeffi- pared to the wavelength in the layer. This approxi-
cient for H (given the discussion following Eq. 10) mation is virtually always obeyed at long periods in
is nearly + 1. This means that the total H field at the MT. Applying these limits to Eq. 14 yields:
surface of a homogeneous half-space is nearly twice 3. For highly conductive basement, a thin resis-
the amplitude of the incident H field. With the E tive upper layer (p2<<p~) is manifested by its thick-
field approaching zero and the H field twice its in- ness only, independent of its exact electrical proper-
cident value at the surface of the Earth, it is not sur- ties. Mathematically, as P2 --~ 0, IZ21<<lZ~l, and
prising that the ratio of the two (the surface imped- Z s = iCOl,toh~ , (15)
ance) is a very small quantity. with Pa*CO~0h~ ~ So Pa depends only on the value of h~,
the thickness of the layer overlying the conductive
3E.3.3. Layered earth
basement.
4. For highly resistive basement, a thin conduc-
The surface impedance of an arbitrary n-layered, tive upper layer is manifested by its h/p quotient only
1-D earth (Fig. 3E-4B) can be found by solving the (SI in this case). Neither p or h can be resolved sepa-
2n equations obtained by applying the boundary con- rately. Mathematically: as /92 --~ oo,, IZeI>>IZll and
ditions on continuity of tangential E and H fields at Eq. 14 reduces to
n interfaces (e.g., Wait, 1970). The important fea- 1 1
tures of this solution can be gleaned by examining Zs ~" c~176ik2/11 S~ (1 6)
the simplest case where n = 2. In this situation the
with p,*l/co~0s~2. $2 defines the conductance of the
surface impedance is given by
layer, which is hJpl. That is, when p 2 > > P l , Pa de-
Z S -" Z 1 Z2 q" Zl tanh(iklhl) (14) pends on the h2/p2 quotient or the conductance of the
Z 1 + Z 2 tanh(iklhl) " layer overlying the resistive basement.
It is very important to note that points 3 and 4
The apparent resistivity is, as always, given by
above not only apply to the first layer of a two-layer
Eq. 13. The response (j9 a and ~, as functions of T)
sequence; they apply to highly conductive and highly
for this case are directly dependent on the behavior
resistive layers anywhere in an arbitrary, layered
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 111

sequence as long as the buried layers are thin. This


simple fact provides enormous practical limitations
on the resolution of MT measurements. Indeed, only
when the layers are thick can we separate p and h in
the conductive case and resolve p in the resistive
case. t
45
9 ~
|
Plots of log p, and linear ~ versus log T (called |

MT sounding curves) are the most widely used pre- log p a


s

sentations of MT data, and are the recommended .;-45 ~

plotting conventions (Hobbs, 1992). Figure 3E-5


illustrates the asymptotic relations 1 through 4 above
for two-layer models where the basement is either
perfectly resistive or perfectly conductive. In both
a log T
cases, p~ curves are asymptotic at short periods to
pl, the true resistivity of the top layer. The oscilla-
tions in the curves at intermediate periods are due to
constructive and destructive interference of waves
reflected from the top and bottom of the first layer.
This is a highly attenuated version of what in optics
literature is called "the quarter-wave effect." This
phenomenon is well-understood in the MT case (e.g.,
90
Zhdanov and Keller, 1994), yet it was improperly
attributed to an "artifact" by Spies and Eggers
(1986). The lack of true one-dimensionality in the
real Earth and measurement errors result in these Phase,
oscillations being rarely observed in actual MT field 45
data. Z
Rewriting the apparent resistivity relations given
after Eqs. (15) and (16) in terms of period, T, and
I
taking logarithms, we have 0 I

1Ogpa = - l o g T + log(2/r//o/h2), (17) b log T -I~


and
1Ogpa = + l o g T - log(2lr//oS12) . (18)
These are the logarithmic representations of as-
ymptotic relations 3 and 4 above. Eqs. (17) and (18)
are clearly equations of straight lines on log-log MT Fig. 3E-5. Two-layer MT sounding curves of (a) log apparent
sounding curves with slopes equal to -1 and + 1, re- resistivity, po and (b) impedance phase, ~z versus log period, T.
spectively. Thus, the sounding curves in Figure 3E- Shown are the limiting cases of perfectly resistive and
perfectly conductive basement which produce S-line and h-
5 have a slope of -45* when the basement is highly line, respectively. All other two-layer MT sounding curves
conductive and a slope of +45* when the basement would lie within these limiting cases.
is highly resistive. These straight lines in MT sound-
ing plots were named "h-lines" and "S-lines", re-
spectively, by Russian researchers (Berdichevsky ing branches can be used directly to calculate h~, the
and Dmitriev, 1976). These descending and ascend- depth to the conductive basement, and the conduc-
tance, $1, above a resistive basement using
112 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

time in the Russian literature (e.g., Vanyan et al.,


Tpo iV2 1967) and has been applied to MT analysis by Boehl
hi= 2n72~ = 357 (TPo)u2 [m], (19)
et al. (1977). It is
and
d~z(T)=~- ~ d(l~ (21)
4 4 d(1ogT)"
= 357 T [S]. (20)
S~= 2 nr/20Po k,P,,) Applying this relation, we expect the phase of Z,
Convenient coordinate values at which to apply to be 45* at maxima and minima (and flat portions)
Eqs. 19 and 20 on actual po sounding curves are at of Pa log-log sounding curves. The impedance phase
po = 1 ohm-m, which means that observed h and S is 90 ~ and 0 ~ corresponding to an h-line and an S-
trends must sometimes be extrapolated. line, respectively. These features are evident in the
Although the above relations are derived for a ~ sounding curves presented in Figure 3E-5. The
simple two-layer Earth, it is of utmost importance failure of the relationship in Eq. (21) to hold (in-
to appreciate that these relations hold approximately cluding impedance phase values outside the 0 ~ to
for highly conductive or highly resistive layers no 90* range) is often taken as evidence for a three-di-
matter how many overlying layers there are. This mensional (3-D) earth. The relationship (Eq. 21)
means that steeply descending branches (--h-lines) seems to hold for most (perhaps all) two-dimensional
can be used to calculate the total depth to any highly (2-D) structures, although we are not aware of any
conducting layer. Similarly, steeply ascending proof of this assertion.
branches (--S-lines) can be used to calculate the to-
tal conductance above any highly resistive layer, i.e., 3E.3.4. Multi-dimensional earth
h~/p~ + h2/p2 + ... In practice, a highly conductive
layer closely produces an h-line when its conduc- At the surface of a multi-dimensional (2-D or 3-
tance is very much greater than the total conduc- D) earth or an anisotropic 1-D earth, the simple lin-
tance of all overlying layers. A consequence of this ear relation between Ex and Hy given in Eq. (11) no
observation is the so-called screening effect, i.e., the longer holds. The Tikhonov-Cagniard model needs
response of highly conductive layers, at the surface revision. A solution to this dilemma was proposed
or at depth, will prevent the detection of deeper con- by Madden and Nelson (1964) who postulated that
ductive occurrences unless they are of much greater the E~ and Ey fields depend on both the H~ and Hy
conductance than the overlying layers. A resistive fields. That is,
layer closely produces an S-line when its thickness = z=(co), x (co) + (co)H (co)
is very much greater than the total thickness of all (22)
overlying layers. Thus, we are again reminded that G(co) = z(cO)nx(CO)+z . (co)n (co)
a thin conductive layer is manifested by its conduc- or in tensor notation
tance (point 3 above) and a thin resistive layer is
manifested by its thickness (point 4 above). Later in zxx Zxy
the Introduction to magnetotelluric interpretation LZ,x
section (w 3E.4), we will illustrate the practical ap-
plication of the four asymptotic relations above to Or, (23)
both actual and synthetic data. E=ZH.
The complex surface impedance measured on a
layered Earth can be shown to be a so-called mini- Here, the four im__pedanceelements form a 2 by 2
mum phase function. In this case the real and imagi- impedance tensor, Z The field relationships of Eqs.
nary parts of Z~ are not independent; this leads to (22) and (23) are still linear, but now each equation
interrelations between the values of p~ and ~ which represents a two-input/single-output linear system
are expressed by a Hilbert transform pair. A very (Reddy and Rankin, 1974). But, an immediate prob-
useful approximate relation has been known for some lem arises when attempting to solve Eq. (22) for the
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 113

four impedance values. Namely, the system is 3E.3.5. Two-dimensional earth


underdetermined since there are only two equations
in four unknowns (Z=, Zxy, Zy~,Z , ). Now consider the MT response of a two-dimen-
The four impedance elements can be determined sional earth. Taking the invariant (or strike) direc-
if one can obtain four independent equations of the tion to be the y-coordinate of a 2-D earth will define
form of Eq. (22). This can be accomplished if two the geoelectric strike direction. For this coordinate
different source polarizations are used. In practice, choice,/)//)y = 0, and Maxwell's electromagnetic
however, because both E and H fields contain noise, equations separate into two independent modes or
it is statistically desirable to have many polariza- polarizations. The component of the electric field,
tions contributing to the recordings. This allows av- Ey, parallel to the geoelectric strike direction defines
eraging to reduce the effects of noise. The result is E-polarization; the component of electric field per-
an overdetermined system since there are now more pendicular to the geoelectric strike direction defines
equations than unknowns. Sims et al. (1971) devel- the H-polarization. The terms E- and H-polarization
oped techniques to derive least-squares estimates of are those recommended by the international EM in-
the tensor impedance elements that minimize the duction community (Hobbs, 1992). Alternative
sums of the squared differences between the mea- specifications of transverse electric (TE) and E-par-
sured and predicted E fields. allel are also commonly used to designate E-polar-
The main problem with impedance elements esti- ization. These terms relate to the orientation of Ey
mated in this manner is that they contain autopowers transverse (perpendicular) to the geoelectric plane
(products of identical field components, one a com- of symmetry and its parallel relationship to the
plex conjugate) that are always biased by measure- geoelectric strike direction, respectively. Transverse
ment noise. This problem can be reduced consider- magnetic (TM) and H-parallel are corresponding
ably by a technique called remote reference MT first terms used interchangeably for H-polarization. The
suggested by Gamble et al. (1979). Remote refer- E- and H-polarizations each has only three EM field
ence MT uses Hx and Hy fields recorded simulta- components. For E-polarization, where Ey is as-
neously at two separate sites, one called the base sumed, Hx and H~ are derived from Maxwell's equa-
and the other called the remote site. A substitution tions. Correspondingly, for H-polarization, where Hy
of the remote complex conjugate magnetic compo- is assumed, Ex and E~ are derived from Maxwell's
nents for the base complex conjugate magnetic com- equations.
ponents can now be made when solving the imped- In the perfect 2-D case, only two impedances are
ance equations. This works well provided the de- needed to completely describe the tensor impedance.
sired MT signal is correlated between the base and That is, the 2 by 2 impedance tensor in Eq. (23) re-
remote sites but the noise is not; this is often the duces to
case between sites separated by only a few kilome-
ters. For example, noise caused by wind vibrating (24)
o
the sensors may be totally different at the two sites
while the MT signal due to large-scale ionospheric where
sources is highly correlated over large distances. In z. = - = ed/-/, , <25)
a recent MT survey in Italy, an electric train power and the diagonal elements of the impedance tensor
distribution system produced noise correlated over are zero.
tens of kilometers so the base and remote sites had As in Eqs. 22 and 23, the first subscript refers to
to be separated by hundreds of km. Nevertheless, the electric field component; therefore, Zy~ and Z~y
the desired MT signals were correlated testifying to are the impedance elements for the E-and H-polar-
the validity of one of the basic MT assumptions, that izations, respectively. The corresponding apparent
of normally incident plane waves. resistivities are calculated using Eq. 11 where Zy~
and Zxy are substituted for Z,.
114 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

In the 1-D (or homogeneous) case the impedance are designated E-polarization, TE, or E-parallel and
response of the Earth is described by two numbers H-polarization, TM, or H-parallel, even though such
(parameters) at each sample period since Z, is a com- designations are strictly true only for a perfect 2-D
plex quantity. The two separate complex impedance geometry.
elements in the 2-D case (Eq. 25) yield four param- The rotation of the tensor impedance elements to
eters in the impedance description. Actually, there achieve principal directions even in a 2-D situation
are five parameters since the orientation of the rect- does not actually distinguish the E-polarization di-
angular coordinate system must also be included. rection from the H-polarization direction since there
In actual field practice, the orthogonal measuring is a 90* ambiguity in the rotation. This ambiguity is
axes (Fig. 3E-2) rarely coincide with directions ex- eliminated by using the fact that only the E-polar-
actly parallel and perpendicular to the geoelectric ization gives rise to a vertical magnetic field. Swift
strike. Consequently, the coordinate system must be (1967) defined a complex parameter called the tip-
rotated either physically or computationally to off- per function which describes a linear relation be-
diagonalize the impedance tensor to the form of Eq. tween the vertical and horizontal magnetic fields.
24. This is expressed computationally by a standard Consequently, in the multi-dimensional case,
coordinate transformation or rotation by some angle. H z = TxH x + TyHy. (26)
If the Earth were perfectly two-dimensional, there The term, tipper, is ascribed to T. Madden (Vozoff,
would be a specific angle where Z~ and Z , would 1972) who visualized the horizontal magnetic field
be identically zero. Since the actual Earth is never over a 1-D earth as being tipped into the vertical by
exactly two-dimensional, some other scheme must the effects of lateral inhomogeneities. The coordi-
be used to determine an approximate or quasi 2-D nate directions of the tipper can be rotated just as
earth geometry. Most schemes either minimize some the impedance tensor can be. For a 2-D earth, the
combination of the diagonal components of the im- tipper can thus be expressed as a function of only
pedance tensor or maximize a combination of the one principal direction, the dip direction. The easi-
off-diagonal elements, usually in a least squares est way to understand the concept of the tipper func-
sense. This analysis is often called a Swift analysis tion is to use the "right-hand rule" as learned in in-
(Swift, 1967). For a perfectly 2-D earth, the Swift troductory physics. Assuming that the right thumb
analysis yields two directions called the principal points in the direction of geoelectric strike, the fight-
directions; one is the geoelectric strike direction and hand fingers curl in a circular manner about the
the other direction perpendicular to the strike is the thumb. The direction of the thumb is that of current
geoelectric dip direction. In an ideal 2-D earth, iden- (or Ey) in the strike direction. The pattern of the fin-
tical principal directions would be calculated at all gers represents both the H, and H, magnetic field
measurement sites and at all sounding periods. directions set up by the current flow. Therefore,
The importance of the basic Swift analysis can- where the y-direction is the strike direction of a 2-D
not be overemphasized since it has been the domi- Earth, the current flow along strike produces the H~
nant MT processing scheme for over 25 years. The and H, magnetic fields; the tipper relation quanti-
analysis always produces principal directions, but fies the relation between the magnetic field compo-
they represent quasi 2-D geoelectric strike and dip nents. This discussion presents the essential physi-
directions. In nature, the directions always vary at cal nature of the E-polarization, which has only the
different periods and from site to site in violation of field components Ey, Hx, and H,. Another way of pre-
a perfect 2-D earth. Swift (1967) presented indices senting the relation between the vertical and hori-
called skew and ellipticity to quantify the degree of zontal magnetic fields is to treat the tipper as a com-
violation. Even so, the most common presentations plex vector (Tx, Ty). This permits the definitions of
of MT data are those parameters appropriate for a in-phase and out-of-phase induction vectors or in-
perfect 2-D case. Namely, apparent resistivity and duction arrows (Schmucker, 1970) as functions of
impedance phase are presented as functions of pe- frequency and location.
riod for the two principal directions. These values
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 115

Fig. 3E-6. Sequence of E-polarization apparent resistivity versus period MT sounding curves from the Rio Grande rift. Ascending
branches (near S-lines) from 0.1 to 10 s period indicate increasing basin depth from east to west; h-lines at periods >10 s mark the
response of a midcrustal conductor. The h-line drawn yields a depth of 11 km to this conductor; the S-lines drawn yield a range of
basin conductance from 15 to 200 S.

3E.4. Introduction to magnetotelluric interpre- et al., 1991). The very fact that the curves vary across
tation the rift basin violates the 1-D assumption. But, as
shown in the next section, some multi-dimensional
3E.4.1. One-dimensional interpretation MT curves (especially E-polarization curves from a
The principles of 1-D MT interpretation are de- 2-D conductive surface environment) may yield a
tailed in the previous discussion in Layered earth (w reasonable 1-D estimate of the vertical section be-
3E.3.3) under the Basic magnetotelluric principles neath a recording site. The curves presented in Fig-
section. These principles are illustrated in Figure 3E- ure 3E-6 are such examples. There are four obvious
6, which contains four smoothed MT sounding layers expressed in these soundings. Data at periods
curves across a portion of the Rio Grande rift near shorter than 1 s reflect an increasingly conductive
Santa Fe, New Mexico (Jiracek et al., 1987; Biehler (lower resistivity) water-saturated, basin-fill with a
fresh water layer overlying a saline water zone. Be-
116 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

caused by important geochemical phenomena in the


P2 > Pl crust (section w 3E.5), is not sensed by any other
geophysical method.

,og P2 3E.4.2. Two-dimensional interpretation


Pa Pl The most important characteristics of 2-D MT
apparent resistivity sounding curves are realized by
understanding the variations in E- and H- polariza-
A B x---~
tion results on either side of a simple geoelectric
contact. Figure 3E-7 depicts such a contact with p~
representing the more conductive quarter-space to
the left of resistive quarter-space P2. The physics of
the response of this 2-D model at the two measure-
ment sites A and B is profoundly different for the
Fig. 3E-7. Variation of TE and TM apparent resistivities two polarizations.
versus distance at a single period across a vertical contact. PTE
varies smoothly within the range of Pl and P2; PTM is discon-
tinuous with values far outside the range of Pl and P2.
E-polarization
All three EM field components in E-polarization
(Ey, H~, and H~) are continuous across all boundaries
low these two layers is a resistive (>100 ohm-m) so the fields vary smoothly across geologic contacts.
basement of relatively dry granitic composition, like Therefore, the apparent resistivity, which is propor-
that of the mountains bounding the rift (Biehler et tional to Ey/Hx (Eqs. 11 and 13) is smoothly varying
al., 1991). Finally, there is a very prominent across a contact. Figure 3E-7 illustrates this behav-
midcrustal conductive zone whose bottom is not re- ior as measured at a constant arbitrary period. The
solved by the 800 s period data, Applying the four Pr~ curve would be sharper at arbitrarily shorter pe-
asymptotic relations from the Layered earth section riods compared to a smoother curve at longer peri-
we find: (1) The top layer resistivity is about 20 ohm- ods. This behavior is characteristic of the inductive
m; (2) The deepest layer resistivity is 2-3 ohm-m; effect, which controls the frequency response of the
(3) The depth (using Eq. (19)) to the top of the E-polarization. This effect depends on the time de-
midcrustal conductor is about 11 km using the h- rivative of the magnetic flux (Faraday's law of in-
line in Fig. 3E-6; and (4) The total conductance (us- duction) so it diminishes at lower frequencies. Note
ing Eq. (20) and the S-lines drawn in Fig. 3E-6) that the PrE response in Figure 3E-7 does not lie
above the resistive basement varies progressively outside the range defined by Pl and P2.
east to west across the basin from about 15 to 200 S.
Since the MT results are virtually identical at the H-polarization
shortest periods, i.e., the resistivity variations above
the basement are laterally continuous, the change in In H-polarization, Hy and E, are continuous across
conductance reflects increasing basin depth. The a contact but Ex is discontinuous. The discontinuity
variations in the positions of the h lines revealing in Ex follows from the continuity of the normal com-
the midcrustal conductor are thought to arise from ponent of the current density, J. The definition of J
3-D (along strike) variations rather than any signifi- results in continuity of the quotient EJp in the model
cant changes in the depth to conductor. All of the in Figure 3E-7. The electric field discontinuity at a
above geoelectric features are highly consistent with contact is due to electric charge accumulation on the
seismic and gravity interpretations (Biehler et al., contact which is the underlying cause of the galvanic
1991) except for the midcrustal conductor. This effect (Berdichevsky and Dmitriev, 1976). The gal-
strong electrical feature, which is thought to be vanic effect produces the discontinuous behavior of
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 117

Site A Site B
192 > Pl
Pl +
P2 PTE P2
+
+
P +

E X
+
+
+
+
"- Ex, 2
I PTE
s
E X,1~ - ++----~E
+
s
X,2
+ log T---~ log T-'-~

Fig. 3E-9. Schematic MT apparent resistivity sounding curves


Fig. 3E-8. Primary electric field, E p, normally incident on 2-D at sites A and B in Fig. 3E-7. Curve for prE is above that for
contact schematically showing surface charge accumulation, PrM on the conductive side of the contact and Pru is above PrE
secondary electric fields, ESl and ES.2, and total electric on the resistive side.
fields, Ex.2 and Ex.1. The secondary electric fields from the +
charges subtract from the primary field on the conductive side hypothetical positive test charge would move. Those
(p~) and add to the primary electric field on the resistive side directions are directed away from a positively
(P2), resulting in E~.2 > E~.I.
charged boundary as depicted in Figure 3E-8.
In Figure 3E-7, note that at locations sufficiently
removed from the contact, neither Pre or Pr~ re-
the pruresults shown in Figure 3E-7 with values fall- sponses sense the contact. This horizontal distance
ing far outside the range of p~ and Pc. The disconti- is approximately one skin depth (Vozoff, 1991). The
nuity in Pr~ (oc IEx/Hyl2) is identical to the square of curves sketched in Figure 3E-7 graphically present
the Ex,JEx,l discontinuity discussed above because the major characteristic differences between E- and
there is no change in Hy along the surface in the 2-D H-polarization MT apparent resistivity results.
case. This emphasizes the dominant role played by Namely, that E-polarization (TE) values plot above
electric field discontinuities in H-polarization appar- H-polarization (TM) results on the conductive side
ent resistivity responses. It can be shown (e.g., of a contact and, vice versa on the resistive side of a
Kaufman, 1985) that electric charges form anywhere 2-D contact. This realization, along with a basic geo-
there exists a component of electric field in the di- logic knowledge of the survey area, can be of enor-
rection of a change in resistivity. The charges are mous value when first trying to understand MT ob-
the source of secondary electric fields that modify servations.
the initial (or primary) electric fields. The resulting The characteristics emphasized above at a single
total (primary plus secondary) electric fields are period, of course, transfer to the sounding curves at
those that appear in the continuity relations for the various measurement sites. Such apparent resistiv-
normal component of J. Figure 3E-8 graphically ity sounding curves for two sites, one on either side
shows these relations for a primary electric field of the contact in Figure 3E-7, are presented in Fig-
perpendicular to a 2-D resistivity contrast. The sec- ure 3E-9. Two major characteristics of these sound-
ondary field directions and magnitudes on each side ings are: (1) both curves converge to the true
of the contact are schematically those required for a resistivities at each site location at the shortest peri-
total field increase on the resistive side and the op- ods, and otherwise; (2) Pre is above Pr~ on the con-
posite on the conductive side of the boundary. The ductive side of the contact (site A), and vice versa
determination of the surface charge polarity is made on the resistive side of the contact (site B).
by recalling that the secondary electric field direc- A convenient way to display many MT sounding
tions must be consistent with the direction that a curves along a profile is in so-called pseudosection
form. A pseudosection is a plot of contours of equal
118 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

contact X contact X --I~


I

log log

y
T T

r r

s m o o t h TE Pa c o n t o u r s discontinuous TM Pa c o n t o u r s

a P <P2 b O<P2

Fig. 3E-10. Representative pseudosections of (a) TE, and (b) TM, apparent resistivity (13,) across a vertical contact in Figure 3E-7.
Horizontal location of contact is marked by p, vertical contours especially in TM case where values are discontinuous.

apparent resistivity, or impedance phase, where the major characteristics emphasized above. Namely, 1)
horizontal axis is linear horizontal distance (e.g., in the curves converge to the true resistivities (10 and
km) and the vertical axis is the log of the period (Fig.
3E-10). Since the shorter period data plot at the top
of the graph and the longer period data at the bot-
tom, apparent resistivity pseudosections give a rough
idea of the true-resistivity geoelectric section. How-
ever, the term 'pseudo' is highly appropriate for such
plots since they can be very misleading. For example,
the discontinuous behavior of the PrM data across a
simple contact (Figure 3E-7) plots as a false intru-
sive-like conductive zone on the low resistivity side
of a contact (Fig. 3E-10b). Such false behavior does
have a beneficial aspect since sharp vertical contours
are good indicators of the positions of lateral bound-
aries, especially in PrM pseudosections (Fig. 3E-10).
To illustrate the above 2-D MT considerations, a
hypothetical geologic-geoelectric continental rift
model depicted in Figure 3E-11 is used. Figure 3E-
12 contains the MT apparent resistivity sounding
curves for sites 1 and 2 at locations in the conduc-
tive basin and on a neighboring resistive flank (Fig. Fig. 3E-11. Hypothetical 2-D geologic-geoelectric continental
3E-11), respectively. Plotting both soundings on the rift model with conductive 10 ohm-m basin bounded by listric
faults, 500 ohm-m basement, 10 ohm-m midcrustal conductor
same graph allows a clear comparison of the two from 15 to 25 km depth, and 100 ohm-m lower crust.
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 119

10000 - mmnlln lib I I !111~

== 1000
T V V

~,v._v2,..,v. v
0
>- % Y

I-- ~4~@@ 4k 4~ 4, 4k 4P 4~ ~ . v v v
i

i
100 vl~,
i-
ra
O3
LU
n- 10 , 9 4L
l-- A
z A
LU @ SITE 1 TE
n- & A A ~
& SITE 1 TM
13. 1 . . . . . . . . SITE 1 1 - D
13. SITE 2 TE
v SITE 2 TM
m._ SITE21-D

0.1 I I I I IIll I I I IIIII I I I IIiil I I I IIIII I I I IIIII I I IIIIII

0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000


PERIOD (S)

Fig. 3E-12. Synthetic apparent resistivity MT sounding curves at sites 1 and 2 within and outside the conductive rift basin shown in
Fig. 3E-11. PxE curve virtually equals 1-D curve appropriate for vertical section below conductive site 1. p ~ curve agrees with 1-D
curve appropriate for vertical section below resistive site 2 only at long periods.

500 ohm-m, respectively) at the shortest periods and 1 in the basin) matches the 1-D curve. This is not
2) Pre is above PrM at site 1 and vice versa at site 2. true for results at resistive site 2 adjacent to the ba-
Imprinted on these observations are the effects of sin except at the longer periods. Note that all curves
skin depth, and a 10 ohm-m midcrustal conductive in Figure 3E-12 begin to rise at the longest periods
zone from 15 to 25 km depth. The latter is expressed shown; this is the response to a more resistive (100
as descending branches on all curves especially from ohm-m) lower crust (Fig. 3E-11).
10 to 100 s period. It is very instructive to compare Although 2-D Earth models can be constructed
the 2-D curves with the 1-D results calculated at each with very complicated responses that require care-
site as if a layered Earth with the same vertical sec- ful attention to vertical and horizontal skin depth
tion is assumed. These results (Fig. 3E-12) show considerations, the simple features discussed above
how closely the TE curve on the conductive side (site are surprisingly useful in initial interpretations.
120 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

Ell (~ TE M O D E ) E (~ TM M O D E )

s
2 'r E
++++++

" " 1"~ -I- +

% +

. . . I . i,,:sl SE
- +

S +
" E +
+

Ep
+

- C ..
- +

- +

- +

- +

C
. _ + +

s
a Ep b E

Fig. 3E-13. Plan view of primary electric field, Ee, normally incident on ends of 3-D conductive (C) body schematically showing
dipolar surface charge accumulation and secondary electric fields, E'. The secondary electric fields subtract from EP over the
conductive body and along its sides but add to EPoff the ends of the body in both the ~TE (a) and ~TM (b) cases. The macroscopic
effect is current channeling into the conductive body (Jiracek, 1990).

3E.4.3. Three-dimensional interpretation Electric field distortion


The MT response of 3-D Earth structures is domi- Figure 3E-13 presents a map view of a 3-D rect-
nated by galvanic effects because electric field com- angular body that is conductive relative to a sur-
ponents in the directions of resistivity changes oc- rounding layered host. A primary electric field is
cur in all directions. Now, whereas the impedance sketched both parallel and perpendicular to the long
description of 1-D and 2-D Earths required 2 and 5 axis of the body. These cases are designated Ett and
parameters, respectively, the 3-D Earth requires 8. E.L, respectively, in Figures 3E-13a and 3E-13b.
These are the real and imaginary parts of each of the There are no strict designations of E-polarization and
full 4 tensor impedance elements (Eq. 23). To illus- H-polarization for the 3-D case, hence, terms ~TE
trate the major 3-D effects, it is sufficient to present mode and ~TM mode are used in Figure 3E-13. In-
two simple examples. Both examples use 3-D rect- cluded schematically in the two examples in Figure
angular blocks, one conductive and one resistive. 3E-13 are the galvanic charge distributions and re-
suiting secondary electric field variations, W. The
polarity of the charges is such to cause a secondary
field opposing the primary field in the conductive
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 121

Ell (~ TE MODE) E (~ TM MODE)

P2 P~
1
s

+
Pl + + -~2 " "

Es s
+

E
+

~ ~ . ~

.+
Es

Ep

+

+ R +
+
+
++++++ +

++ R -
+ + - .

s
a Ep b E

Fig. 3E-14. Plan view of primary electric field, Er, normally incident on ends of 3-D resistive (R) body schematically showing
dipolar surface charge accumulation and secondary electric fields, E'. The secondary electric fields add to E P over the resistive body
and along its sides but subtract from Er off the ends of the body in both the ~TE (a) and ~TM (b) cases. The macroscopic effect is
current deflection around the resistive body (Jiracek, 1990).

body. Only then can the total electric field decrease ample, the total field is reduced directly over the
in a conductive body as required to preserve the con- body and along its sides, whereas the fields are en-
tinuity of normal current density. Even though the hanced off the ends of the conductor. The overall,
total E is decreased in a conductor it is important to total effect is that of current channeling into con-
realize that the current is enhanced. This expected ductive inhomogeneties (Jiracek, 1990).
increase of current in good conductors is called cur- Figures 3E-14a and 3E-14b present the situations
rent channeling. opposite to those in Figure 3E-13, namely those of
For clarity, some details are omitted in Figure 3E- a relatively resistive 3-D inclusion. Now the second-
13 since the sketches are meant to show only the ary field must be additive to the primary field in the
major features. The important result is that there are resistive body. This single consideration enables the
galvanic charges and H-polarization-like effects for sketches in Figure 3E-14 to be made. From these it
both polarizations of the electric field. By simply is clear that the total electric field is enhanced di-
estimating the sense of the vectorial addition of the rectly over the body and along its sides, but, it is
primary and secondary electric fields depicted in diminished off the ends. Now the current channel-
Figure 3E-13, one can make a good guess of what ing is around the outside of the resistive body, an
the resulting total E field patterns will be. For ex- effect called current deflection.
122 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

are sketched in comparison to an apparent resistiv-


ity sounding curve appropriate to a 1-D Earth with
,... ,.. m m ,... ,.., ,,
the same vertical properties as the 3-D case. This
~ ! ~Dfor verticalsection shows that the 3-D sounding curves are shifted
~~~TE 1 curvesshifted downward at sites located over surface conductors
~ ' ~ T M j" downward and upward over resistors. However, at sites off to
a log T--~ the side of a conductive body, for example, the ~TE
curves would be shifted up and the ~TM curves
would be lowered. These conclusions follow from
scrutiny of the sketches in Figures 3E-13a and 3E-
13b.
Where the shifting up or down of the apparent
~ - - T M } curvesshifted resistivity sounding curves is frequency (period) in-
~TE upward dependent, the constant shift is referred to as a static
"" 1-Dfor vertical shift. The shift is constant or static when the pri-
section mary electric field is uniform over the extent of the
b log T--.- body, the galvanic magnetic effects are inconsequen-
tial, and the inductive (TE-like) effects are negli-
gible. These requirements are always met for small
3-D bodies below some frequency value, therefore,
Fig. 3E-15. Schematic apparent resistivity MT sounding
above some arbitrarily long period. As frequency
curves over 3-D conductive (a) and resistive bodies (b) in Fig. decreases, the increased skin depth in the host rock
3E-14 compared to curves appropriate to 1-D section in which eventually results in a quasi-uniform charging field
bodies are embedded. Both ~TE and ~TM sounding curves are over the depth extent of the body. At high frequen-
static shifted downward over the conductive body and they are cies the field is stronger at the top of a body, there-
static shifted upward over the resistive body.
fore, the body is charged more at the top. Such a
variation with frequency does not produce a static
shift. Inductive effects, since they depend on a time
Distortion of apparent resistivity curves derivative, always decrease with decreasing fre-
quency.
An understanding of the galvanic electric field The question of whether or not magnetic field
distortions alone often enables one to estimate the galvanic distortion can be neglected depends on the
surface effects on 3-D MT sounding curves even overall volume of the current channeling and/or cur-
though the apparent resistivity calculation (Eq. 13) rent deflection as mentioned earlier. An informed
includes both the electric and the magnetic fields. discussion of this topic has been recently presented
This is so because the 3-D galvanic magnetic field by Chave and Smith (1994) where they confirm that
distortion is determined by a volume integral of the such distortion is frequency dependent. Therefore,
current distortion, which is small for near-surface galvanic magnetic effects or significant inductive
bodies of small volume. In these cases, the apparent response from 3-D bodies oppose static shift. Still,
resistivity results are dominated by electric field it is clear to all MT practitioners that there is a sur-
variations. They are shifted upward where the total prising recurrence of static shifts in MT sounding
electric fields are enhanced and are shifted down- data. In fact, static shifts are probably the leading
ward where total electric fields are depressed. These contemporary problem in magnetotelluric process-
observations explain why the ~TE and ~TM appar- ing and modeling. Therefore, it is not unexpected
ent resistivity curves directly over isolated conduc- that many schemes have been devised to address the
tive and resistive bodies are shifted as shown in Fig- problem of static shift (a review of techniques ap-
ures 3E-15a and 3E-15b, respectively. The results pears in Jiracek, 1990). However, no method is com-
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 123

pletely successful without auxiliary data. In actual are better developed than in stable areas. That con-
situations different static shifts from different scales tinental rifts have such features was recognized early
of inhomogeneities in the vicinity of a measurement on, e.g., by Schmucker (1964) in the Rio Grande rift.
site all superimpose. Jiracek et al. (1979) emphasized this observation for
Several well-formulated proposals have appeared four rifts (Rio Grande, Baikal, East Africa, and the
in recent years to partially address the 3-D galvanic Rhinegraben) by concluding that they are charac-
distortion problem (e.g., Groom and Bahr, 1992; terized by zones of < 50 ohm-m at depths of 10-30
Chave and Smith, 1994). The details of these are km. Jones (1992) summarized an additional 10 years
beyond the scope of this discussion. However, since of data and correctly states that no single conduc-
this is one of the most active research areas in MT, tivity model fits all rifts. In fact, there are still argu-
the main theme of these techniques is briefly pre- ments about whether or not there is a crustal con-
sented here. Namely, the measured (distorted) im- ductor directly beneath the Rhinegraben or just un-
pedance tensor is mathematically expressed in terms der its eastern shoulder (Schmucker and Tezkan,
of a background (regional) impedance multiplied by 1988; Jones, 1992; Mareschal et al., 1994). For other
tensor distortion terms. The desired regional imped- young continental rifts the question is not if, but why,
ance is assumed to be either 1-D or 2-D; the distor- there are conductive zones. Naturally, the next ques-
tion tensors allow for 3-D electric and magnetic dis- tion is what are the consequences?
tortions. The latter are complex and frequency de- The question of why the mid-to-lower continen-
pendent; the former are real, frequency independent tal crust is conductive is truly a "hot topic" as evi-
(static) distortions. Both distortions are location de- denced by a barrage of recent papers on the subject.
pendent. In practice, a low frequency assumption is Jones (1992) has a very complete summary as do
usually invoked wherein the wavelengths inside and Hyndman et al. (1993). There has also been a major
outside the inhomogeneities are large compared the effort to relate the conductive occurrences with
size of the 3-D scatterer. This, and the neglect of the crustal seismic reflectors and refractors (Gough,
magnetic distortion, produces real, frequency inde- 1986; Jones, 1987; Hyndman, 1988; Hyndman and
pendent electric field distortion tensor elements Klemperer, 1989; Hyndman and Shearer, 1989;
(Larsen, 1977; Wannamaker et al., 1984; Zhang et Merzer and Klemperer, 1992). The intent of this con-
al., 1987; Bahr, 1988; Groom and Bailey, 1989). tribution to be a practical assessment of MT in a con-
Galvanic (current channeling) magnetic effects have tinental rift environment demands a brief review of
been included in 3-D MT distortion formalisms by some of these recent results. This will be done in an
Groom and Bailey (1991), Zhang et al. (1993), and overview manner; the reader is strongly urged to
Chave and Smith (1994). All of the tensor distortion consult the above references for more details.
schemes perform tensor decomposition to attempt
to retrieve a pure, undistorted regional impedance 3E.5.2. Sources of crustal conductors
tensor. Unfortunately, an indeterminacy remains for
each method that requires the independent knowl- There are really only three possible sources for
edge of the regional impedance tensor for at least crustal conductive zones. These are water, magma,
one frequency. and conductive minerals such as graphite. Because
graphite is much more conductive (p = 10-5 ohm-m;
Duba and Shankland, 1982) than highly saline wa-
3E.5. Mid-to-lower crustal conductive zones ter (10 -2 ohm-m minimum; Nesbitt, 1994 ) which is
in turn more conductive than magma (about 0.5 ohm-
3E.5.1. Introduction m; Hermance, 1979), it requires much less graphite
It has been argued recently (Hyndman et al., 1993) to produce a conductive zone. Temperatures in the
that the deep crust is conductive everywhere. How- lower crust are above the critical temperature (374~
ever, there is a trend for tectonically active areas to for pure H20) so the term aqueous fluid is preferred
have shallower (midcrustal) conductive zones that instead of water since liquid and gaseous H20 are
124 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

The question of whether graphite, or other con-


indistinguishable. After early interpretations that
ductive minerals exist in the deep crust must also
conductive zones, especially in rift environments,
address the sources and accumulation processes
were caused solely by magma (e.g., Pedersen and
(Hyndman et al., 1993). The source of graphite is
Hermance, 1978; Banks and Beamish, 1979) the fa-
usually thought to be from the reduction of CO2-rich
vored explanations have become aqueous fluids or
fluids. CO2 itself is a nonconducting fluid. Even
conductive minerals, mainly graphite (Hermance and
though the amount of graphite needed to produce a
Pedersen, 1980; Jiracek et al., 1983; Jodicke, 1993;
conductive zone is small, there must be a connected
Hyndman et al., 1993; Katsube and Mareschal,
film (Katsube and Mareschal, 1993) on regional
1993). As stressed by Jones (1992), there is no single
scales. Intergranular graphite films are suggested to
cause for the enhanced crustal conductivities since
explain low resistivities in a 10 km deep borehole in
different effects operate in different tectonic envi-
Germany (Jodicke, 1992; Haak et al., 1991) and in
ronments and at different depths.
the deep Precambrian shield of Canada (Katsube and
For H20~to accumulate in the crust, there must be
Mareschal, 1993). Duba et al. (1994) emphasize that
both a source and a capping mechanism. Sources
a suite of conductive accessory minerals (ilmenite,
include deep circulating meteoric water, crustal
magnetite, pyrite, pyrrhotite) including graphite were
devolatization by metamorphic reactions, and flu-
measured in the German drill cores. A graphite ex-
ids released from mantle derived magmas crystal-
planation is not usually invoked in conductive rift
lizing higher up in the lithosphere. Newton (1990)
settings because a continuous supply of deep fluids
emphasized that emplacement of mantle-derived
is expected. Also, there appears to be a strong corre-
magmas in the lower crust contributes greatly to the
lation with temperature which is not expected for
thermal and volatile budgets in highly extensional
graphite. Graphite is often used as an explanation
regimes such as rifts. The magma volatile content is
where a conducting zone doesn't have a correspond-
mainly H20 and CO2 (Wilson, 1989), the solubility
ing seismic signature. This would be the consequence
of which decrease as the magma migrates upward.
for thin graphite films but it is also expected for very
The fate of ascending volatiles depends on pressure,
low water fractions (~ 1%). Such levels of connected
temperature, time, and whether crustal melting or
water saturation result in orders of magnitude change
retrograde metamorphism occurs (Thompson and
in electrical conductivity but corresponding changes
Connolly, 1990). H20 is very soluble in granitic
in seismic velocities are very small (Watanabe,
melts and retrograde metamorphism moves water
1993).
into hydrated minerals that are resistive (Olhoeft,
1981). A theoretical reason to expect trapping of
3E.5.3. lntergranular aqueous fluid-dihedral angle
aqueous fluids in cracks at the brittle-ductile transi-
control
tion in the crust has been presented by Bailey (1990).
The argument is that vertical fluid transport is rapid New experimental data (Holness, 1993) suggest
in the ductile crust but that it slows abruptly at the that enhanced electrical conductivity of deep meta-
brittle-ductile transition. The resulting overpressure morphic rocks is caused by water-saturated, low-
would induce horizontal fractures in which water porosity continental crust which has profound rheo-
would accumulate. Bailey's (1990) hypothesis is es- logical implications. These data concern the
pecially appealing since the coincidence of the depth interconnectivity of intergranular (not fracture-con-
to the top of crustal conductive zones and the brittle- trolled) fluids as a function of pressure and tempera-
ductile transition has been reported by several stud- ture in the ductile crustal environment. Results from
ies (e.g., Jiracek et al., 1983; 1987; Hyndman et al., Holness (1993) are simplified schematically in Fig-
1993). However, Bailey's (1990) mechanism would ure 3E-16a where the concept of dihedral angle is
operate most effectively where the principal regional also sketched (Fig. 3E-16b). The dihedral angle or
stress is horizontal (compressional) rather than ver- wetting angle (Brenan, 1991) is the angle subtended
tical as it is in extensional rift environments. by intersecting grain walls at pore corners in a re-
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 125

Fig. 3E-16.(a) Schematic pressure, temperature, dihedral angle plot for crustal conditions. Pattern of dihedral angle contours
follows those of quartzite-H20 system presented by Holness (1993). Shaded region is where aqueous fluids reside in isolated pores
and the rock is impermeable to fluid flow (0>60*). At dihedral angles 0<60 ~ the rock has an interconnected fluid phase and is
permeable to grain-edge fluid flow. High and low dT/dz geothermal gradients illustrate situations where interconnected aqueous
fluid would be trapped beneath an impermeable cap (shaded region). Notice that for various values of high dT/dz, the depth to the
trapped fluid would vary but the temperature would be nearly constant following an isotherm. (b) Schematic single grain aqueous
fluid distribution as a function of value of dihedral angle (60~176 table of implications in deep crustal metamorphic rocks.

crystallized rock at equilibrium conditions. The val- major features of a plot embracing the ductile por-
ues of dihedral angle define the 3-D continuity, there- tion of the crust are what we want to emphasize. Two
fore, interconnectivity of the grain-edge porosity. hypothesized geothermal gradients are sketched in
Interconnectivity can only exist if the angle is less Figure 3E-16a. These illustrate that two regions of
than a critical value which is about 60* for 1% po- fluid connectivity may exist in the ductile crust un-
rosity (Hyndman, 1988). Total grain-edge wetting der an impermeable cap (0 >60~ For high geother-
is achieved at 0 ~ dihedral angle. Dihedral angle im- mal gradients, fluid interconnectivity would occur
plications on crustal conductivity have been dis- at a near-constant temperature irrespective of the
cussed (e.g., Hyndman, 1988; Marquis and actual value of the geothermal gradient. The tem-
Hyndman, 1992). However, the data were not ad- perature is defined by the near-vertical contour of 0
equate to define a pressure (depth)-temperature-di- = 60 ~ which is almost parallel to the rock melting
hedral angle plot as was done by Holness (1993). curve (Fig. 3E-16a). For lower geothermal gradi-
The published plot is for a pure quartzite-H20 equi- ents, the region of interconnectivity is at lower tem-
librium system where the wet melting temperature perature nearer the brittle-ductile transition. The tem-
is about 1100~ Presumably this temperature would perature at the top of the zone would vary consider-
be near 640~ for a wet crust of granitic composi- ably depending on the intersection of the geother-
tion. Therefore, actual pressure and temperature val- mal gradient with the non vertical 0 = 60* contour.
ues have been omitted in Figure 3E-16a since the Note that if the geothermal gradient is very low, the
126 G.R. Jiracek, V. Haak, and K.H. Olsen

YIELD STRESS (MPa) quartzite with CO2-H20and solutes of NaC1 and


0 200 400 600 other salts. Their results are appropriate to condi-
0 I I I 1
tions in the deep crust and upper mantle (950-1105~
temperature and 1 GPa pressure) with a low percent-
age of aqueous brine solution. The major findings
were that the effect of saline solutions was to de-
Pf = Pore Fluid P r e s s u r e
crease the dihedral angle to as low as 40* for the
quartz-fluid system but there was no change in the
BRITTLE high dihedral angle (0 >>60*) in dunite with, or with-
out, salts. This implies that aqueous solutions are
DUCTILE
more likely to be interconnected in the ductile crust
dc/dt = Strain Rate if the aqueous solution is saline but not so in the
a 20 d T / d z = Geothermal Gradient mafic mantle. The latter result agrees with a similar
H 2 0 = Water Content study reported on clinopyroxene-rich rocks (Watson
Quartz = Mineral Composition and Lupulescu, 1993).
Feldspar Ratio

3E.5.4. Consequences of intergranular aqueousfluid


30
Watson and Brenan (1987) suggest that it is tempt-
ing to conclude that the dihedral angle-controlled
Fig. 3E-17. Synoptic diagram of crustal rheological behavior fluid distributions apply to any conditions in the
showing the effects of increasing pore fluid pressure in the Earth where recrystallization has occurred, i.e, any
brittle regime; and decreasing strain rate and increasing pressure-temperature condition above the lowest
geothermal gradient, water content, and quartz/feldspar ratio metamorphic grade. In the case of a rift environment
in the ductile portion of the crust (redrawn from Sibson,
we must first ask whether or not the crust is in the
1984).
required mechanical and chemical equilibrium. In
dihedral angle would be <60* throughout the entire fact, brittle fracturing occurs in active areas, such
region (depth range) plotted and there would be no as rifts, even in the ductile regions of the crust as a
impermeable cap. This would be the case of con- result of tectonic stresses and igneous intrusions.
tinuous dewatering of the crust even with a continu- These transient events deviate from static equilib-
ous source of deep aqueous fluid. rium but for rocks hot enough to undergo rapid plas-
The dihedral angle considerations above present tic deformation, it is likely that equilibrium pore
two situations where deep crustal conductive zones geometries develop rapidly (Brenan, 1991). For equi-
would have sharp upper boundaries. One, where the librium wetting to occur, its rate must exceed the
geothermal gradients are high, dictates that the depth rate of ductile rock deformation; this is always the
to the conductive zone would be an isotherm. In the expected situation (Watson and Brenan, 1987).
other case, at lower geothermal gradients, a deeper It is clear from many experimental results (e.g.,
conductive zone would be at lower temperatures. Kronenberg and Tullis, 1984; Cooper and Kohlstedt,
More experimental results, such as those presented 1986) that a connected fluid phase decreases the
by Holness (1993) on actual rock/fluid assemblages strength (the viscosity) of the rock and enhances the
expected throughout the crust, are needed to con- strain rate. The strength of the crust has the general
firm or reject these expectations. Such a confirma- profile depicted in Figure 3E-17 but there are sev-
tion has just appeared (Holness, 1995) which pre- eral interdependent factors (Sibson, 1984) that can
sents results at 4 kbar pressure for the quartz-H20- perturb it. In the ductile portion of the crust an in-
CO2 system with trace amounts of feldspar. Watson crease in the geothermal gradient, water content, or
and Brenan (1987) reported on dihedral angle mea- quartz content will decrease the strength and the
surements performed principally on dunite and brittle-ductile transition will migrate upward. More
Practical magnetotellurics in a continental rift environment 127

locally, a zone of interconnected water within the and have led to continual changes and corrections.
ductile region will facilitate increased pressure so- The writing of much of this was accomplished at
lution creep which enhances the strain rate. Experi- the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), In-
mentally, this effect is large where grain wetting stitute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics where
occurs in olivine-basalt partial melts (Cooper and GRJ was on sabbatical leave in 1994. The hospital-
Kohlstedt, 1986). The process involves the diffusion ity of the staff and director of the Institute, C.F.
of dissolved minerals along grain boundaries from Keller, are warmly appreciated. Discussions with
regions of higher stress (at asperities) where the solu- LANL petrologists W.S. Baldridge and D. Hickmott
bility is high to regions of low stress where the solu- on the implications of dihedral angle wetting were
bility is low (Turcotte and Schubert, 1982). This dif- very helpful. A careful critical review by P.E.
fusion requires fluid interconnectivity. Wannamaker is very much appreciated.
Since an interconnected aqueous film has orders
of magnitude higher conductivity compared to that
of isolated pockets of H20, the connection with rhe- 3E.6. References
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mapping of deep conductive zones is an indirect tensor: regional induction and local telluric distortion. J.
measurement of strain levels in the crust (Fig. 3E- Geophys., 62: 119-127.
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Grandis, H. and Tarits, E, 1993. Magnetotelluric observa- Thompson, A.B. and Connolly, J.A.D., 1990. Metamorphic flu-
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PART III.

MODERN RIFTS
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
Chapter 4

The European Cenozoic rift system


C. Prodehl, St. Mueller, and V. H a a k

4.1. Introduction Atlas ranges. The southern continuation of the rift


system through the Mediterranean Sea and beyond,
4.1.1. Description and Location however, will not be discussed in this chapter.
The European Cenozoic Rift system (ECRS) In southern France the rift starts in the Rh6ne
traverses the lithosphere of western and central Eu- depression. While the Rh6ne valley in southeastern
rope extending from the Mediterranean to the North France is not well developed as a graben, the
Sea over a distance of some 1100 km (Fig. 4-1). It Limagne graben, west of the Rh6ne valley, is a very
is a continuous system of rift structures from the significant rift structure which traverses the Massif
Rh6ne depression in southeastern France to the Leine Central and is flankeff by volcanic chains. Further
graben in northern Germany and through the Lower north, the Bresse-Sa6ne graben system continues
Rhine Embayment in western Germany into the cen- from the Rh6ne valley and separates the Massif Cen-
tral graben in the North Sea. Also the Eger graben tral of France from the Franco-Swiss Jura and the
of the Bohemian Massif is viewed as part of the Alpine orogenic belt. Both the Limagne graben and
European Cenozoic rift system (Ziegler, 1992), but the Bresse-Sa6ne graben system terminate against
will not be discussed in this contribution. This rift the Burgundy transform fault system, which links
system evolved in the Alpine foreland during late the grabens of southeastern France with the
Eocene to Recent times. Its development is contem- Rhinegraben near Basel.
poraneous with the main and late Alpine orogenic The Rhinegraben (Fig. 4-1) between Basel and
phases (Ziegler, 1992). Frankfurt is the central segment of the European
Southwards, off the mainland of France, the Ceno- Cenozoic rift system and has been the most thor-
zoic rift system continues through the Gulf of Lions oughly investigated (Roth6 and Sauer, 1967, Illies
into the Spanish Valencia trough. Ziegler (1992) dis- and Mueller, 1970, Illies and Fuchs, 1974, Fuchs et
cusses the possible southwestern prolongation of the al., 1987). It extends as an almost linear feature for
Cenozoic European rift system into the western about 300 km from Basel to Frankfurt. In contrast
Mediterranean Sea, i.e. the Valencia trough (Banda to the Massif Central region, the Rhinegraben and
and Santanach, 1992) and the grabens of Corsica- its surroundings is almost devoid of volcanic activ-
Sardinia, which were formed when they were still ity. The only well known and prominent volcanic
attached to the Provence (Illies, 1975b). The Euro- feature is the Kaiserstuhl volcano in its southern part.
pean Cenozoic Rift system continues southwestward At the northern end of the Rhinegraben, at a triple
across the Alboran Sea to the Rif fold belt into the junction near Frankfurt (Ziegler, 1992), the rift sys-
tem splits up: to the north it follows the Hessen de-
134 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Fig. 4-1. The European Cenozoic rift system between the Noah Sea and the Mediterranean Sea (after Echtler et al., 1994, fig. 1).

pression and the Leine graben near GOttingen and tematic variation since upper Miocene times and has
seems then to disappear beneath the young sediments changed the kinematics of this rift system (MOiler
of the North German Plain. The other branch of the et al., 1992) and its volcanic activity.
rift system has been more active in recent times. It
continues from the northern end of the Rhinegraben 4.1.2. Recognition as a rift
near Frankfurt northwestward through the Rhenish
As early as 1836 the French scientist l~lie de Beau-
Massif (Fuchs et al., 1983) into the Lower Rhine
mont studied the steep escarpments of the Vosges
embayment (referred to as Ruhr graben by Ziegler,
mountains and of the Black Forest and suggested that
1992) and from there can be traced into the North
the flat plain along the river Rhine (with the
Sea.
Kaiserstuhl volcano) was the surface of a subsided
All parts of the rift system show an asymmetric
crustal block which had been downthrown along
structure; in addition the Rhinegraben is character-
converging major faults, thereby causing the uplift
ized by a north-south segmentation. The regional
of the adjacent "graben" shoulders. In a subsequent
stress field in central Europe has undergone a sys-
The European Cenozoic rift system 135

Fig. 4-2. Location map of explosion seismology surveys of the European Cenozoic rift system up to 1987. Base map showing
Cenozoic graben troughs and Cenozoic volcanism from lilies (1973, fig. 1).
136 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

publication, he was the first to outline the elements trending sinistral transform faults which may repre-
of a concept describing "modern rifts" (t~lie de Beau- sent reactivated Permo-Carboniferous fracture sys-
mont, 1841). tems (Ziegler, 1992). Subsidence of these grabens
The significant physiography of continental gra- began during the Eocene, accompanied partly by
bens is expressed by a partial parallelism of the fram- strong volcanic activity.
ing fault scarps. This is seen most clearly in the A sinistral NE-striking transform fault system
Rhinegraben, but can also be viewed in the Central forms the structural connection of the Limagne and
Massif of France along the Limagne graben and the Bresse grabens of south-central France with the
Rhfne-Sa6ne valleys, as well as, to a certain ex- southern end of the Rhinegraben. The NNE-trend-
tent, along the Lower Rhenish embayment between ing Rhinegraben shows a difference in the evolu-
Bonn and KOln. An individual average width of 30- tion of the southern and the northern parts (Roll,
40 km between both master faults seems to be a spe- 1979). Rifting started with graben subsidence in the
cific attribute of nearly all graben segments. This southern Rhinegraben about 45 Ma under an exten-
regularity is maintained by sharp curves of the main sional stress regime in the foreland of the Alps (Illies
trend. Thus, a change in the direction of one escarp- and Greiner, 1979) (Fig. 4-3). The maximum hori-
ment is closely followed by a corresponding change zontal extensional stress rotated from NNE-SSW to
on the opposite side, causing the "woodcut-like" a NNW-SSE to NW-SE direction at about 20 Ma
contours of graben systems (Illies, 1974a). (Ahorner, 1975; Illies, 1975a, b, Meier, 1989, Meier
Other typical peculiarities of a graben are its ten- and Eisbacher, 1991). Since that time, the graben
sional features and internal block tectonics as well has experienced transpression. Graben subsidence
as the seismo-tectonic activity parallel to the gra- ceased in the southern Rhinegraben (Villemin and
ben axis. Taphrogenesis is additionally influenced Coletta, 1990) and was followed by mid-Miocene
by erosional processes along the elevated graben updoming of the Vosges - Black Forest complex
shoulders and the consequent transport of debris into (Laubscher, 1987). The doming was accompanied
the graben depressions. Several thousand meters of by volcanic activity in the Kaiserstuhl area within
sedimentary infill deposited in the fault troughs cor- the graben and in the Hegau and Urach volcanic
respond to proportional denudations of the elevated fields to the east (Lippolt et al., 1974).
flanks (Illies, 1974a). As an unstable block on the perimeter of the Al-
The European Cenozoic rift system is pierced by pine collision front, the Rhenish Massif is wedged
many volcanic plugs and is partially covered by flood between the Rhinegraben and the Lower Rhine
basalts (Fig. 4-2), especially in the Hessen depres- embayment. Uplift of the Rhenish Massif of at least
sion and the Central Massif of France (Illies, 1970, 150 m was accompanied by widespread volcanism
1973). Geophysical investigations have revealed in the western Eifel and the Neuwied basin. From
anomalous physical properties of crust and mantle, the southern rim of the Taunus and Hunsrtick to the
such as high heat flow, moderate seismicity, thinned Westerwald and Eifel a belt of earthquake epicen-
crust, and anomalous upper-mantle structure, which ters and a grid of faults, partially still active and in-
may be related to the magmatic activity. dicating mild neotectonics, traverse the Rhenish
Massif in the direction of the maximum horizontal
4.1.3. Regional tectonic framework compressive stress axis (lilies and Fuchs, 1983).
Near Bonn, active graben tectonics begins again,
The Cenozoic rifts of southeastern France strike however, different from the Rhinegraben now un-
essentially parallel to the front of the western Alps der tension corresponding to the new direction of
and transect the structural grain of the Late Paleo- the axis. The Lower Rhine embayment continued to
zoic Variscan fold belt at a steep angle (Ziegler, subside during Miocene to Recent times, some faults
1992). Localization of individual grabens can be forming considerable steps. This graben feathers out
related to tensional reactivation of Late Variscan
to the northwest and gradually loses its identity
fracture systems. These grabens are linked by NE (Ziegler, 1992).
The European Cenozoic rift system 137

Fig. 4-3. Stress map of central Europe (from B. Miiller pers. comm., 1994)
138 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

4.2. Significance A review of the crustal and upper-mantle struc-


ture beneath the European Cenozoic rift system up
As in most rift systems around the world, there to 1978 was published by Prodehl (1981). Since then,
has been commercial interest for some time in ex- new data--in particular, seismic-reflection sur-
ploring and exploiting the natural resources of the veys~became available (e.g., Aichroth et al., 1992,
graben troughs. Hot springs near the edge of the gra- Bergerat et al., 1990, B r u n e t al., 1991, 1992,
ben shoulders became the site of Roman settlements. Gajewski, 1989, Ltischen et al., 1989, Wenzel et al.,
The area of Pechelbronn in the Alsace in the 1991) and were subsequently reviewed by Prodehl
Rhinegraben is known for its oil wells since 1498; it et al. (1992). In that publication, emphasis was put
is one of the oldest oil fields in Europe. Thousands on two transects through the central part of the rift
of boreholes have since penetrated into the sedimen- system, one traversing the southern Rhinegraben
tary graben fill of the Rhinegraben, with the deepest from the Vosges Mountains to the Black Forest (see
borehole reaching a depth of 3336 m, in particular AA' in Fig. 4-9 and Fig. 4-17), the other one tra-
exploring the chances for geothermal energy exploi- versing the Rhenish Massif and the Hessen depres-
tation. Many shafts for mining potassium salt, as- sion (BB' in Fig. 4-9 and Fig. 4-25). These transects
phalt, ligurite and iron ore have been sunk into the are part of a series of transects through major rift
graben and precious metal ores have been mined in structures of the world which have been compiled
the exposed flanks of the graben since the Middle for this volume.
Ages. Immeasurable geophysical investigations have
aided in the understanding of the structural features
in and around the graben. 4.A. The southern section of the Central Euro-
The seismicity of this Cenozoic rift system is pean rift in south-central France
moderate compared to other continental graben sys-
tems. Although the historical seismic record covers 4.A3. Geological information
about 1000 years, no great earthquake has been docu- 4.A3.1. Introduction
mented. The strongest event with an estimated in-
tensity of IX occurred in 1356 and destroyed the city Superimposed on old Hercynian structures, the
of Basel at the southern end of the Rhinegraben volcanic provinces together with intersecting gra-
(Bonjer et al., 1984). In modern times, mainly the ben structures form the southern part of the Euro-
Hohenzollerngraben, located to the east between the pean Cenozoic rift system (ECRS) which developed
Rhinegraben and the Urach volcanic field, has been in western Europe since Oligocene time. The
the site of relatively strong earthquakes (Schneider, Limagne graben is the most prominent segment of
1971, Illies, 1982). Occasionally, earthquakes with this Massif Central graben system. To the east, the
intensities of VII-VIII causing minor damage are Rhone depression separates the Massif Central from
felt in the Lower Rhine embayment (van Eck et al., the Alps, and the Bresse-Saone graben system, at
1993). the western margin of the Franco-Swiss Jura, con-
Since the beginning of modern crustal and upper- tinues to the north-northeast, but terminates against
mantle investigations, the Rhinegraben and the gra- the Burgundy transform fault system which links the
bens of the French Massif Central have been sites grabens of southeastern France with the
of intensive research. The crustal and upper-mantle Rhinegraben. The development of the Central Euro-
structure has been investigated predominantly by pean graben system in Cenozoic times reveals that
seismic methods with observation and interpretation the recent story of the Massif Central in the Variscan
techniques varying through time, and results have belt is connected with geological convulsions asso-
been published by various authors. Figure 4-2 shows ciated with the Alpine orogeny, thus showing the
the seismic-refraction lines observed from 1966 to complex nature of its geodynamical evolution.
1989 to investigate the crustal and upper-mantle
structure of the rift system and its surroundings.
The European Cenozoic rift system 139

Fig. 4--4. Simplified geologic map of the Central Massif of France showing neovolcanic provinces and graben areas and location of
seismic-refraction profiles.

4.A3.2. Sedimentary record Triassic peneplain reactivated since Jurassic times.


After a major Jurassic transgression covering most
The Cenozoic rifts of southeastern France strike of the peneplain, at the beginning of the Oligocene
essentially parallel to the deformation front of the a new phase of significant fracturing occurred when
western Alps and transect the structural grain of the large subsidence trenches developed as the basin of
Late Paleozoic Variscan fold belt at a steep angle Limagne d'Allier, the basins of Montbrison and
(Ziegler, 1992).
Roanne, Forez, Le Puy, and others within the Mas-
The French Massif Central is part of the late Pa- sif (Roques, 1971). Also, large subsided areas de-
leozoic Hercynian fold belt. Similar to the Rhenish veloped surrounding the Massif Central, including
Massif and the Vosges-Black Forest area, it is a pre- the Paris basin to the northwest, the Aquitaine basin
140 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

to the southwest, the Languedoc to the southeast, sition between the Rhine and the SaSne rift valleys
and the Rh6ne and Bresse depressions to the east in detail and observed two tectonic stages: the first
and northeast. Volcanic activity began at this time is a reactivation of Permo-Carboniferous fracture
in the Limagne and later migrated westwards. Si- systems and can be recognized in the Hercynian
multaneously the whole Massif Central rose and basement and its Triassic cover, the second tectonic
tilted from east to west. In Quaternary times, volca- stage is manifested in the deposition of post-Trias-
nic activity migrated back to the east and concen- sic sediments, lilies (1973, 1974c) explains the
trated on the western marginal fault of the Limagne, southern extension of the Rhinegraben by the gra-
with the most recent volcanoes being only 2500 years ben zones of eastern France in the early Tertiary,
old (Hirn and Perrier, 1974). prior to the folding of the Swiss Jura in Pliocene
The Burgundy trough has been an area of strong times, as caused by the rotation of the strain ellip-
sedimentation during most of the Permian and Me- soid when the Rhinegraben, dilatational during Oli-
sozoic times (Boigk and Sch0neich, 1974). At cer- gocene and Miocene, changed into a shear graben
tain periods, between the crystalline blocks of the in Upper Pliocene and Pleistocene times.
Massif Central and the western Alps a marine con- Subsidence of the Sa6ne, Bresse, and Limagne
nection from Southwest Germany to the Mediterra- grabens began during the middle Eocene. The Bresse
nean has been inferred in the contour maps of Boigk graben experienced its most rapid subsidence in Oli-
and SchOneich (1974) through today's Bresse and gocene times along convergent main faults and along
southern Rh6ne depressions. synthetic and antithetic shear zones with a main
The Limagne region consists of the Limagne strike direction of N20~ Syn-rift deposits of lacus-
d'Allier, also named more simply the Limagne gra- trine shales and carbonates and fringing clastics,
ben, and the Montbrison and Roanne basins, both were followed by an evaporitic sequence and distal
separated by the Forez horst. The two depressions marine incursions (Bl~s et al., 1989, lilies, 1974c,
join in the region of Moulins. Oligocene sediments Ziegler, 1992). By the early Miocene, marine con-
become progressively thinner towards north and nections between the Alpine foreland basin and the
vanish near Nevers (Fig. 4-4). The average thick- Paris and Northwest European basins were blocked
ness of the sediments shows strong asymmetries, by the thermal uplift of the Massif Central and the
being greater in the western than in the eastern part Rhenish Massif (Ziegler, 1992). After a time of de-
of the Limagne graben. The greatest depth to the creased and partly interrupted subsidence of the
basement is about 2.5 km and occurs just north of Bresse and Limagne grabens in the Miocene, possi-
Cl6rmont-Ferrand, near the western master fault (see bly in connection with the thermal doming of the
Fig. 2 of Hirn and Perrier, 1974; Morange et al., Massif Central and the Vosges-Black Forest dome,
1971). To the south, towards Brioude, the basement combined with wrench-related upwarping of the
rises and a complex faulted area shows alternating Burgundy area, the kinematics of the Bresse graben
outcrops of crystalline rocks and Oligocene sedi- changed in the Pliocene. The eastern border fault
ments which are not affected by erosion. It is not zone was overridden by west-vergent folds of the
known how far the original sedimentary cover ex- Swiss Jura, and the extensional tectonics changed
tended. into a compressional regime. At present, the Bresse
The Bresse and Limagne grabens began to develop and Limagne grabens are being uplifted.
simultaneously with the Rhinegraben, with parallel Due to the changes in the regional stress field
orientations 150-km-apart from each other, lilies (Bl~s and Gros, 1991) during the late Miocene and
(1973) suggests that the three graben segments ter- Plio-Pleistocene, the Bresse valley rift started to
minate at the same major transverse geotectonic fea- develop differently from the Rhinegraben. The
ture: the so-called Burgundy transfer zone, a sinis- highly asymmetric sedimentary fill of the Bresse
tral northeasterly striking transform fault system graben reaches a maximum thickness of about 5 km
following paths of weakness in the Hercynian base- (Bergerat et al., 1990; Truffert et al., 1990).
ment. Contini and Th6obald (1974) studied the tran-
The European Cenozoic rift system 141

4.A3.3. Igneous activity 4.A3.4. Xenolith studies

Taphrogenesis in the grabens of southeastern In the Massif Central xenoliths have been found
France was connected with intensive volcanism pro- in great numbers within volcanic rocks of Oligocene-
ducing primitive mafic alkaline magmas (Wilson and to-Recent age (Downes and Leyreloup, 1986;
Downes, 1992). The main activity concentrated in Nicolas et al., 1987; Werling, 1992). Besides well
the Auvergne, west of the Limagne graben. Here, equilibrated xenoliths, it is those showing strongly
from north to south are aligned the range of small zoned mineral alignments documenting pressure and
volcanoes forming the Cha~ne des Puys, the great temperature changes, which enable reconstruction
stratovolcano of Mont Dore, the basalt lava plateau of the spatial and temporal development of the ther-
of the C6zallier, the central volcano of the Cantal mal state of the lithosphere underneath the Massif
and the basaltic plateau of the Aubrac (de Goer and Central (Altherr, oral comm., Werling, 1992). Study-
Mergoil, 1971; Jung, 1946; Rutten, 1969). Another ing mineral zoning of ortho- and clinopyronenites
large volcanic district is the Velay in the southeast- of non-equilibrated xenoliths, many samples docu-
ern prolongation of the Limagne graben. ment simple heating and cooling processes, but in
The evolution with time can be reconstructed on others, rather complex developments also are seen
the basis of recent K-Ar dating (Briot and Harmon, where an older cooling process has been overprinted
1989; Werling, 1992). After the initiation of rifting by a younger heating event. In general, a systematic
in the Eocene, about 40 Ma, basaltic volcanism be- relation between mineral zonation and age of erup-
gan within the Limagne graben in the Lower Mi- tion evidently does not exist. According to Werling
ocene, about 19 Ma. In the upper Miocene, from 11- (1992) it is unlikely that the phenomenon of an older
12 Ma onwards, the volcanism on the western flank cooling process is connected with tectonic processes
started in the Cantal and Aubrac as well as in the during rifting, but more probably should be attrib-
Causses to the south and in the Velay to the south- uted to processes during extension of the lithosphere
east. The main activity, however, occurred in the at the Variscan orogeny in Upper Carboniferous-to-
Pliocene between 5 Ma and 2 Ma. Almost all prov- Permian times.
inces of the western flank (Petite Cha~ne de la Sioule, The alkali basalts of the Massif Central contain
Mont Dore, C6zallier and Cantal), those in the south- almost exclusively Mg-rich spinel-lherzolithes and
eastern prolongation of the Limagne graben (Dev~s, spinel-harzburgites which are rich in Mg and Cr,
Velay and Coiron), and the southernmost volcanic while garnet lherzolithes are very rare. During par-
provinces (Escandorgue and Languedoc), were ac- tial melting processes within the mantle, the Cr/
tive at that time. Recent volcanism occurred in the (Cr+A1) and the Mg/(Mg+Fe2 in the restite
Cha~ne des Puys to the northwest and in the Vivarais increase, while at the same time, a gradual deple-
to the southeast. Evidently, there is no systematic tion of basaltic components such as A1, Ca, Fe, and
connection between age of the volcanism and its Ti occurs (Werling, 1992). Nicolas et al. (1987) in-
geographic distribution with relation to the Limagne terpret the orthopyroxene-clinopyroxene-spinel clus-
graben system (Werling, 1992). ters in the xenoliths as having crystallized from
With the exception of the lava plateaus, the com- magma pockets which are, themselves, formed on
position of the volcanics varies widely. Jung (1946) the sites of garnets. This melting occurred when the
has defined groups depending on their alkalinity. local geothermal gradient crossed the solidus in the
Brousse (1971) defines fourteen magmatic regions garnet lherzolithe field during asthenospheric up-
on the basis of petrology, space, and time. welling.
Downes and Leyreloup (1986) describe in detail
a systematic study of granulitic xenoliths found in
the Tertiary and Quaternary volcanics of the Massif
Central, which include immature metasediments and
calc-alkaline meta-igneous suites. According to
142 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Downes and Leyreloup (1986), this indicates the versed the Massif Central between Limoges and
formation of the crust in an island-arc or continen- Aries (Hirn et al., 1973; Sapin and Prodehl, 1973).
tal margin environment. The meta-igneous litholo- Based on these data and confirmed by later investi-
gies of the lower crustal xenoliths in the Massif Cen- gations, the structure of the Hercynian crust of the
tral range from ultramafic pyroxenites and Massif Central outside the graben and volcanic zones
hornblendites, through granulites, to intermediate is rather uniform and is very similar to the crust of
and silicic charnockites and form about 60% of the other Hercynian areas in Europe (Prodehl, 1984).
xenolith population, while the remaining lower Two intracrustal reflectors near 10 and 20 km depth
crustal xenoliths are metasedimentary granulites can be recognized in the seismic-refraction data, and
(Downes, 1993). More recent studies by Werling the Moho is a rather flat boundary at about 30 km
(1992) result in a temperature range between 650~ depth (Hirn, 1976). However, due to the neotectonic
and 1210~ The estimated pressures and tempera- events during Tertiary and Quaternary times lead-
tures of equilibrated xenoliths of the various volca- ing to taphrogenesis and volcanic activity, the origi-
nic provinces of differing ages align well along the nal Hercynian crust of the Massif Central has been
continental "steady state" model geotherm of 85- heavily disrupted in many places.
90 mWm -2 of Chapman (1986). Two of the reversed profiles of 1970 were re-
The primitive mafic-alkaline magmas within the corded along the axis of the Limagne graben (Hirn
European Cenozoic rift system are regarded by Wil- and Perrier, 1974) and along the volcanic zone
son and Downes (1992) as the closest approach to Chaine des Puys - Mont Dore - Cantal (Perrier and
mantle-derived primary magma compositions which Ruegg, 1973). Under the Limagne graben, a strong
were erupted through variably thinned lithosphere reflector within the uppermost crust is seen at 3 km
and which have experienced a complex Phanerozoic depth. The existence of velocity inversions in the
history of deformation and magmatism in both sub- upper crust~which reaches to a depth of 16-19
duction and extensional tectonic settings. Accord- km--were not evident from existing data, but nei-
ing to Nicolas et al. (1987), in the Massif Central ther could they be ruled out. The dominant feature
the asthenospheric upwarp above 70-km-depth ap- of the crust under the Limagne graben was a strong
pears in a number of 10 km diapiric intrusions. reflector at 24 km depth. Hirn and Perrier (1974)
emphasized that there is fair evidence that this dis-
continuity is underlain by a layer with velocity in-
4.A4. Geophysical surveys and results creasing gradually from 7.5 km/s to about 8.4 km/s
4.A4.1. Seismic studies at 40 km depth and that fairly well-developed phases
can be recognized in the data which have evidently
Following various seismic investigations in the traveled below this depth with a velocity greater than
1950s and 1960s (see, e.g., Labrouste, 1970), de- 8.4 km/s. Under the volcanic region west of the
tailed seismic investigations of crustal and upper- Limagne graben, Perrier and Ruegg (1973) found
mantle structure in the southern section of the cen- also a reflector at 23 km depth, on top of a layer
tral European rift system and in the Massif Central having a velocity increasing from about 7.2 to 8.4
of France began in 1970 with modernized equipment km/s at 45 km depth. Further west, a "normal"
and were carried out during various field campaigns Hercynian crust of 30 km thickness is seen. The re-
between 1970 and 1992 (Figs. 4-2 and 4-4). sult of these investigations was summarized by
In 1970 several parallel, mostly north-south trend- Perrier and Ruegg (1973) in a cross section (Fig. 4-
ing, reversed seismic-refraction profiles were re- 5) which was also checked by gravity modeling.
corded parallel to the main tectonic structures of the In 1972 a special survey covered the Bresse and
Massif Central (Fig. 4-2 and 4--4; Hirn, 1976; Hirn Rh6ne graben system (Michel, 1978; Michel et al.,
and Perrier, 1974; Perrier and Ruegg, 1973). In 1971, 1977), which was supplemented in 1976. Contrary
a long-range profile through France from the to the Rh6ne graben, the Bresse graben was traversed
Bretagne to the Mediterranean Sea near Toulon tra- only by several unreversed lines in westerly and
The European Cenozoic rift system 143

SILLON FOREZ BASSINOU VALLEE DU RHONE


LIHCUSIN MILLEVACHESHOUILLER L IHAGNE
VOLCANS FOREZ LYONNAIS ALPES

o I I i I
!oo 200 300 4o0
10 "1 6,03 5.96 5.96

Moho 7. o

60
70

8~
~
I
8 . 2

8.4

hatched. LOW-VELOCITY ZONE


1 Zlkm)
90

0
100
,! 200
I ,
300
I
400
1
(
:kin

-20
:.-e
(b) -,o
-60

-80"
g (ingot) -..-- cal culated
oltitude Ira)Iooo ~,
0 "~ "1 ~. / ~ . . . . / 7 7 7 / t / / / / / ~ /

10 2.83 2.80

20 2.as
30 9 3.10
I~__~ ~ 3.33 .
,oso. ~ 3 . 2 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ao.p, f .~- 3.27

90

Z(km] 100

Fig. 4-5. (a) Crustal cross section through the Central Massif of France at the latitude of Clermont-Ferrand (from Perrier and
Ruegg, 1973, fig. 63). (b) Gravity model through the Central Massif of France at the latitude of C16rmont-Ferrand (from Perrier and
Ruegg, 1973, fig. 64).
144 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

WNW LIMAGNE FOREZ ESE


Pionsat Montcel Allier St. Geo.rges
I
Eveaux
i I
L II I i
Riom J,
~
Thiers
-- II i -
Iv ontbrison
0
6.0 6.0 6.0 5.8
5.9 5.8 5.9 5:9

fO- 6.1 6.05 6.0 5.85 6.0 6.1 -10


. . . . . ~ ' ~

6.15 6.15 6.05 6.0 6.1 6.2

6.2 6.1 6.1 6.2 6.2


E 20- -20 E
6.5 6.5 6.7 6.7 6.6 6.7
d:: c-
ID.
6.8 6.9 6.9 El.
llj
ra 1::3
B.0
30-" -30
ao

6.0 = velocity (kin/s)


40 ! ! ! | I I I' I I i | I I l -40
0 40 80 120
Distance (kin)

Fig. 4-6. Crustal section across the Limagne graben approximately 30 km north of C16rmont-Ferrand (from Landes, 1994)

north-northeasterly directions. Some of these shots Egloff (1979) found depths of 27-29 km, and his
were also used to record unreversed lines into the Moho depth contour map indicates a gradual increase
Swiss Jura (Egloff, 1979). However, the Bresse gra- in crustal thickness from 26 km in the northwest of
ben is the only part of the southern European Ceno- the Swiss Jura mountains to 30 km at their eastern
zoic rift system that was investigated in some detail border. Based on the ECORS profile through the Jura
by the ECORS programme. In 1987 a detailed seis- Mountains and Bresse basin (Bergerat et al., 1990;
mic-reflection line was recorded from the western Bois et al., 1991; Truffert et al., 1990), the Moho
Alps through the Jura and Bresse grabens to the east- rises from 29 km depth beneath the Jura border to
em edge of the Massif Central near Tournus (Fig. 27 km at the edge of the Massif Central. The highly
4-2; Bergerat et al., 1990; Bois et al., 1991). asymmetric sedimentary fill of the Bresse graben is
In general, the axis of minimum crustal thickness underlain by a rather transparent upper crust with
follows approximately the direction of the northern some easterly dipping reflectors. From the Massif
Bresse and, north of the city of D61e, seems to bend Central to the center of the sedimentary basin, the
to the northwest. For profiles running from the north- thickness of the crystalline upper crust is reduced
ern Rh6ne graben into the Swiss Jura mountains,
The European Cenozoic rift system 145

Fig. 4-7. Moho map for the area of the Massif Central (from Bauer, in prep., 1995)

from 17.5 to 13 km. The top of the 10 km thick lami- middle crust is revealed, while to the east, the Moho
nated lower crust parallels the Moho, but is rather dips rapidly towards the Alps and reflections from
difficult to define in detail (Bergerat et al., 1990). intermediate boundary zones cannot be correlated
In the southern Rh6ne Valley and on its flanks, in in the data. The velocity of the uppermost mantle
the C6vennes to the west, and in the Alps to the east, immediately beneath the Moho is 8.1-8.2 km/s at
three longitudinal and two transverse profiles have the border of the C6vennes to the southern Rh6ne
been recorded (Fig. 4-2; Michel et al., 1977; Sapin graben, but under the graben area proper, where
and Hirn, 1974; Sapin and Prodehl, 1973). Compared crustal thickness is reduced, upper-mantle phases
to the structure of the surrounding Hercynian crust, cannot be correlated. Under the axis of the southern
the velocity-depth structure of the lines within the Rh6ne valley, sediments may reach almost 10 km
graben area show characteristic differences. To the thickness. Thus, the thickness of the crystalline crust
west, under the C6vennes, some fine structure of the here is reduced to about 15 km compared to about
146 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

22-23 km thickness for the crystalline crust of the Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that the southern
southern Rhinegraben. This reduction in thickness profile crosses the southernmost tip of the Limagne
is primarily attributed to the upper part of the crust, graben and various young volcanic areas, this line
the "granitic" layer (Sapin and Hirn, 1974). The simi- revealed a rather homogeneous crustal structure.
larity of the thinned crystalline crust of maximum Following a Pg-phase indicating a basement veloc-
15 km thickness, with 10 km and more overlying ity of 6.0 km/s, two well-defined wide-angle reflec-
sediments, is a feature which is also found under tions provide clear evidence of an intermediate
other basins with a very thick sedimentary cover like crustal boundary at about 17-18 km and the Moho
Northern Germany (Prodehl, 1981, 1984, Aichroth at 29-30 km depth. However, in the area of the Velay/
et al., 1992, Reichert, 1993). Dev~s volcanic fields the intermediate crustal reflec-
The joint teleseismic - seismic refraction inves- tions are masked by strong signal-induced noise
tigation of 1991-92 (Granet et al., 1994; Stoll et al., possibly originating from reverberations generated
1994; Zeyen et al., 1994) has led to a new under- within the near-surface volcanic edifices. The Pn-
standing of the geophysical data obtained hitherto. phase on this line was only recorded east-to-west,
The detailed teleseismic and seismic-refraction in- but not reversed. Based on the flat crustal structure
vestigations of 1991-92 in the Massif Central cen- defined by a series of wide-angle PMP reflections,
tered around the Limagne graben, and followed de- the unreversed velocity of 7.9-8.0 km/s is assumed
tailed petrological field studies of xenoliths in the to be a true velocity (Novak, 1993). The fan obser-
young volcanic areas surrounding the southern part vations underneath the Limagne graben to the north
of the Limagne graben described above (Werling, suggest that the Moho rises to about 26 km, but the
1992). sub-Moho velocity remains high (8.0-8.1 km/s),
In late 1992, a special seismic refraction survey while the Moho stays at 29 km depth below the west-
was carried out (Fig. 4--4) in the central part of the em flank of the graben (Zeyen et al., 1994). For the
Massif Central. About 150 mobile seismographs si- northern profile a low, unreversed Pn-velocity of 7.5
multaneously recorded 7 borehole shots along two km/s is interpreted as an apparent velocity and the
WNW-ESE traverses, 70-km-apart, across the south- resulting two-dimensional crustal model provides an
ern Limagne graben (Landes, 1994; Novak, 1993; asymmetric structure. The least depth to Moho of
Zeyen et al., 1994). The 150-km-long northern pro- 26 km is located near the western border of the
file crosses the Limagne graben north of C16rmont- Limagne graben proper (Fig. 4-6). Towards west,
Ferrand and traverses crystalline basement rocks just the crust thickens rather abruptly to 30 km; to the
north of the Chaine des Puys on the west side of the east the increase in depth is more gradual, 28 km
graben, as well as the horst of Forez to the east of depth being obtained under the horst of Forez. Fig-
the graben. Due to unfavorable noise conditions, ure 4-7 shows an updated contour map of the depth
however, stations were not deployed in the graben to Moho for the area of the Massif Central using all
proper. The southern profile of 230 km length is cen- data presently available (Bauer, in prep., 1995). The
tered at the southern termination of the Limagne internal crustal structure under the graben area con-
graben. It crosses the young volcanic fields of the sists of an upper crust with two layers of only slightly
C6zallier in the west and the Velay/Dev~s in the east. varying velocity of about 6.1 and 6.2 km/s, with an
Particular aims of this seismic-refraction survey intermediate boundary at about 12 km depth, and a
were firstly, to study the effect of rifting and volca- lower crust with 6.6-6.8 km/s below 20 km depth
nism on the structure of the Hercynian crust; and (Landes, 1994; Zeyen et al., 1994; H. Zeyen, A. Hirn,
secondly, to obtain absolute velocities, i.e. to cali- M. Landes, and O. Novak, in preparation).
brate the crust and uppermost mantle in an area The analysis of xenoliths had supplied informa-
where teleseismic tomography studies and petrologi- tion on the petrological composition as well as on
cal xenolith investigations had been carried out as the p-T conditions and the petrologically predicted
well. seismic velocities in the source regions of the lower
t~

t,,i
t..~

Fig. 4-8. Tomographic cross section through the Massif Central between Limoges and St. i~tienne traversing Mont Dore and the southern Limagne graben south of
C16rmont-Ferrand (from Granet et al., 1994, fig. 7b)
148 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

lithosphere. In order to study the velocity structure contour map of the Limagne graben and surround-
of the lithosphere-asthenosphere system beneath this ings. Compared to average values of-10 to-20 mgal
volcanic area, a teleseismic network of 80 mobile on the western flank, the Bouguer gravity values in
short-period seismographs was installed to supple- the graben proper average between -30 to -40 mgal,
ment the existing permanent 14-station-network. The but also indicate the existence of various basins. In
aperture of the array was about 300 km in the E-W general the Bouguer gravity decreases from north to
direction, and 270 km in the N-S direction. This joint south between Moulins and C16rmont-Ferrand and
array covered the central part of the Massif Central rises again further south. A minimum of-55 mgal is
and recorded more than 120 teleseismic events over observed near Riom north of C16rmont-Ferrand, near
a period of 7 months (Granet et al., 1994; Stoll et the western edge of the graben.
al., 1994). Inversion of P-wave traveltime residuals Interpreting the long-wave length Bouguer grav-
of teleseismic events recorded by this dense array ity anomalies of the l:l,000,000-scale map of
yielded a detailed tomographic image of the 3-di- France, Autran et al. (1976) define the Vosges-
mensional velocity structure beneath the Massif Auvergne block by a general low Bouguer gravity.
Central to about 180 km depth. The relative veloc- Weber (1980) interprets this block as an area of high
ity variations in lateral direction range in average metamorphism. The greatest negative anomaly oc-
from about +1% to-2.5%, which corresponds to curs south of the Auvergne, with values below -45
velocity variations of about 0.25-0.3 km/s. mgal, which according to Weber is caused by a
The three-dimensional model (Fig. 4-8) displays crustal thickening of the area surrounding the thinned
strong heterogeneities of the lithosphere down to 60 crust of the Limagne and adjacent young volcanic
km depth. Surprisingly, it does not show any evi- chains. Following Hirn and Perrier (1974), the en-
dence of velocity anomalies which could directly be tire Massif Central is under compensated, the mean
associated with taphrogenesis of the Limagne gra- isostatic anomaly being 25 mgal for a depth of com-
ben proper. However, the model suggests a strong pensation of 30 km (Airy).
correlation between volcanic provinces and the lo- After correcting for both the sediments and Moho
cation of negative travel time perturbations. Two effects, the Limagne graben does not appear as an
areas with reduced velocities may be interpreted as outstanding graben feature in the gravity data.
a thermal signal visible today and indicating a Rather, a gravity low o f - 7 0 mgal remains for the
magma ascent during the Oligocene which followed whole region where volcanic activity has occurred
zones of extended lithospheric fracturing inherited (Stoll et al., 1994). As discussed in detail in connec-
from the Hercynian orogeny and reactivated during tion with the teleseismic investigations, the areas of
the Oligocene. The weakest velocity perturbations volcanic activity are strongly related to the areal
are seen between 60 and 100 km depth. The corre- extent of the teleseismic velocity anomalies. Further-
sponding change in the velocity pattern is interpreted more, the Bouguer gravity minimum can be com-
by Granet et al. (1994) as evidence for a smooth tran- pensated directly by the teleseismic low-velocity
sition between lithosphere and asthenosphere, which areas. Stoll et al. (1994) used the 3-dimensional
at the same time defines the thickness of the lithos- tomography model of the Massif Central by Granet
phere. Below 100 km depth an extended zone of re- et al. (1994) discussed elsewhere in this paper to
duced velocities covers a large area in depth and constrain a 3-dimensional density model using a lin-
width. The authors interpret this result as evidence ear velocity/density relation for solid rocks. They
for a plume-type structure now in its cooling phase. then calculated the 3-D Bouguer gravity of this
model with an interactive computer program to
4.A4.2. Gravity model 3-dimensional density structures. The result
is a remarkable fit indicating that no--or only small
Based on a gravimetric study carried out in 1953 amounts of~partial melt can be expected under the
by the Companie G6n6rale de G6ophysique, Limagne graben area. A more detailed investigation
Morange et al. (1971) have published a Bouguer
The European Cenozoic rift system 149

of anomalous crustal effects on the Bouguer gravity point out that the seismicity shows no clear align-
field is presently being carded out by Bauer (in prep., ment of events between the Rhine and the Bresse
1995). grabens.
The recent seismicity of the Massif Central has
4.A4.3. Magnetic anomalies been monitored in detail since 1960 when a modern
seismic network was installed at the geophysical
The most prominent magnetic features of the aero- observatory of Cl6rmont-Ferrand. Present earth-
magnetic map are related to volcanic structures quake activity is much less than in the Rhinegraben
(Aubert and Perrier, 1971). From a 3-dimensional region and seems to be confined to the Limagne gra-
inversion of aeromagnetic data covering Mont Dore, ben proper. The dominant seismicity is observed west
Bayer and Cuer (1981) deduce the presence of a deep of the graben in the area of the Chaine des Puys,
magnetic source which can be related to an intru- while another cluster of activity is observed at the
sive body in a fractured basement, or to sedimen- southern end of the graben around Brioude (Dorel,
tary formations older than Mont Dore volcanism. oral comm., 1994, Nicolas et al., 1990). Weak seis-
Magnetic anomalies also seem to be associated micity is also observed in the southern Rh6ne val-
with the pre-Hercynian and Hercynian border zones ley (Nicolas et al., 1990).
(Weber, 1980). The main feature of the aeromagnetic
map in the Massif Central is the strong relief asso- 4.A4.5. Stress pattern
ciated with the Paleozoic Sillon Houiller fault zone
between Cl6rmont-Ferrand and Aurillac. According Bl~s et al. (1989) have investigated the different
to Aubert and Perrier (1971) this strong relief can stages of brittle deformation of the Massif Central
be associated with a deep magnetic layer which un- basement and the surrounding sedimentary cover
derlies all the local anomalies connected with the from the end of the Hercynian orogeny to the end of
volcanic structures. North of the Vichy and Moulins the Tertiary, using structural analysis and particu-
anomalies, the anomalies of the total magnetic field larly microtectonic methods. The prevailing com-
computed for a height of 13 km indicate that the pressional tectonic regime of the Stephanian was
Massif Central extends to the northeast as far as the followed by a series of extensional periods at Per-
south of Alsace (Aubert and Perrier, 1971). Com- mian-Triassic, Early and Middle Jurassic, and Late
paring gravity and magnetic maps, Aubert and Jurassic to Cretaceous times. Normal faults which
Perrier (1971) point out apparent large structural formed during these extensional periods have
anomalies in which the difference in values east and strongly influenced the distribution of emerging con-
west of the Sillon Houiller fault zone, together with tinental areas and sedimentary basins.
some amphibolite-rich areas, are the most promi- From 75 Ma (Campanian) to the Present, the dis-
nent features. tribution of stresses was controlled by the conver-
gence of Africa and Europe. Bl~s et al. (1989) dis-
4.A4.4. Seismicity tinguish several tectonic episodes in the Massif Cen-
tral. N-S compression dominated during the Eocene.
France is in a marginal position in relation to the In the Late-Eocene-Oligocene, general E-W exten-
principal peri-Mediterranean seismic zones, but has sion was responsible for graben genesis in mainly
nevertheless experienced several destructive earth- N-S strike directions synchronous with the forma-
quakes and many significant shocks. However, the tion of the Rhinegraben, and particularly in the cen-
main seismic activity is concentrated near the fron- ter of the Massif and at its eastern and southeastern
tiers, i.e. part of the Pyrenees, Alps and the Rhine borders (Mtiller et al., 1992). Finally, during the
sensu lato, while for the Massif Central region only Alpine orogeny and during the evolution of the Jura
little activity is shown in the seismicity maps thrust belt at the end of the Miocene, compression
(Fourniguet et al., 1981). Fourniguet et al. (1981) varying from NW-SE to E-W prevailed in the north-
ern and southern parts of the Massif.
150 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

The deformation of Neogene and Quaternary de- related to a mantle diapir ascending beneath the
posits in the Rh6ne valley proves that the Middle to Massif Central since the Oligocene, a result which
Upper Miocene molasse of the east side of the Rh6ne is in good agreement with the results and interpreta-
valley was affected by E-W compression, but that tion of recent teleseismic studies (Granet et al., 1994,
Pliocene sands and clays show only small normal Stoll et al., 1994). Lucazeau et al. (1984) describe a
faults caused by E-W to NE-SW extension (Bl~s kinematic model for a thermal diapir in the mantle
and Gros, 1991). which has a width of 40 km, starting at a depth of
Analysis of faults in post-Late Miocene basalt 150 km and ascending with a velocity of 1 cm per
flows indicates a normal faulting stress regime with year. For this diapir they assume the following sce-
an S ~ orientation of N78~ and vertical offsets of nario: Before the Oligocene, the lithosphere was
Quaternary basalt flows along N-NNW trending stable, as at present in Brittany. During the Oligocene
faults and ongoing seismicity are signs of some de- (30 Ma) stretching of the lithosphere initiates a dia-
gree of continuing subsidence (Mtiller et al., 1992). piric process. From the Miocene (20 Ma) to the
Available focal mechanism data (Nicolas et al., Pliocene (5 Ma), the mantle diapir progressively
1990), hydraulic fracturing measurements (Cornet rises. At the same time, widespread volcanism de-
and Burlet, 1992) and over-coring data indicate a velops. When the diapir reaches the Moho, the less
combination of normal and strike-slip faulting dense and more rigid crust stops the ascent and
(Mfiller et al., 1992). causes a lateral extension of the diapir at Moho
depth. The resulting pressure at the base of the crust
4.A4.6. Heat flow is supposed to be responsible for the crustal dom-
ing. According to the teleseismic model of Granet
The heat flow map of France (Vasseur, 1982) et al. (1994), some component of partial melting
shows a broad maximum (100-110 mWm -2) of el- must be assumed in order to explain all features of
evated heat flow along the European Cenozoic rift the topography, gravity, teleseismic data, and the
system. One high of 110 mWm -2 runs along the geothermal observations.
Bresse graben through northeastern France and may Consequently, according to Lucazeau et al.
continue into the Landau area of the Rhinegraben. (1984), the origin of the high heat flow values in the
Another high of ~ 110 mWm -2 is indicated in the area Massif Central can be explained by a three-compo-
of the southern Rh6ne valley. nent model: (1) The crust of Hercynian type explains
The most prominent 110 mWm -2 anomaly on the a high crustal component of 50-60 mWm -2 due to
map, however, is observed above the Massif Cen- radioactive heat production.(2) Recent Cenozoic
tral proper and is of much larger extent. Compared activity of the lithosphere is accompanied by the rise
to a continental average of 64 mWm -2, this anomaly of a mantle diapir as described above, resulting in a
with an average heat flow ~ 105 + 13 mWm -2 is eas- heat-flow component of 25-30 mWm -2. (3) The re-
ily comparable with other tectonic active regions like maining part of the heat flow of 35 mWm -2 is slightly
the Basin and Range province (Lucazeau and Bayer, higher than the heat flow of a typical cratonic mantle
1982) and is discussed in detail by Lucazeau and (26-28 mWm-2), and may be related to a residual
Bayer (1982) and Lucazeau et al. (1984). The au- thermal effect associated with the Hercynian orog-
thors conclude that the radioactive components of eny (300 Ma) and/or to different estimations of
the crust and the mantle cannot account for the en- paleoclimatic effects (Lucazeau et al. (1984).
tire surface anomaly. By removing the integrated
radioactive contribution from the surface heat flow, 4.A4.7. Geodetic data
Lucazeau et al. (1984) obtain a residual anomaly with
an amplitude of 25-30 mWm -2 involving a smaller Fourniguet et al. (1981) reviewed the available
area close to the Cenozoic Limagne graben and the data and hypotheses and compiled a tectonic map
adjacent volcanic area. The authors interpret this which, in addition to the seismotectonic field, takes
mantle heat flow anomaly as a transient component into account age and structures of ancient massifs,
The European Cenozoic rift system 151

and the basement geology of sedimentary basins. The whose thickness decreases from --18 km under the
map emphasizes fracturing by indicating the age and edge of the Massif Central in the west to 13 km un-
direction for the main movement whenever possible. der the basin center. A similar asymmetry is also
For parts of France, the neotectonic data were com- shown in the contour map of basement depths of the
pleted by comparative studies of the NGF 1885-1895 Limagne graben which Morange et al. (1971) com-
leveling and the IGN 1963-1969 first-order network piled from borehole data, shallow seismic-reflection
elevations. The map shows that the Tertiary troughs results, and a Bouguer gravity map (using an aver-
(Rhinegraben, Bresse, Limagne) are subsiding al- age density of 2.3 g/cm3). Depths to basement are
though they are not considered to be very active generally shallow and do not exceed 2.5 km. The
zones. thickness of the upper crust here is about 16-19 km
(Hirn and Perrier, 1974), and the authors point out
that velocity reductions may only be minor if they
4.A5. Structure and interpretation exist at all.
4.A5.1. Introduction The sedimentary basin of the southern Rhfne
Valley seems to differ from the other graben sec-
As mentioned above, interpretation of the recently tions. In the center of the Rh6ne depression, the cross
obtained seismic-refraction and teleseismic data has sections of Sapin and Hirn (1974) show sedimen-
not yet been fully completed, and therefore summa- tary layers with up to 10 km thickness. Thicknesses
rizing publications are still in preparation (e.g., H. and mean velocities of the sedimentary sequences
Zeyen, A. Him, M. Landes, and O. Novak, in prepa- were taken from stratigraphic indications in bore-
ration; G. Stoll, in preparation). Therefore it does holes, deep seismic logging, geophysical prospect-
not seem appropriate to construct a transect for the ing results, and Pg-arrival delays. Sapin and Hirn
southern part of the European Cenozoic rift system (1974) point out that the basement of the southern
on the basis of the presently available published and Rh6ne Valley is much more depressed relative to its
unpublished results. However, except for some mi- flanks than for the Limagne and the Rhinegrabens.
nor details in the region of the southern Limagne The underlying upper crystalline crustal layer with
graben, the older Moho contour map compiled by velocities varying regionally between 6.07 and 6.12
Prodehl et al. (1992; Fig. 4-29) probably will not be km/s was identified in the western part of the south-
changed very much compared with the new Moho ern Rhfne Valley. Its thickness ranges from 8 km
map being compiled by Bauer (Fig. 4-7; Bauer, in near the graben axis, where it is overlain by 8-10
prep., 1995). km sediments, to more than 20 km under the adja-
cent Massif Central.
4.A5.2. Near-surface rift structures
4.A5.3. Deep crust
For the graben areas many borehole data are avail-
able which have been used to compile thickness con- Various Moho maps, published for different parts
tour maps for various paleogeographic times (Boigk of the European Cenozoic rift system and adjacent
and Sch6neich, 1974). For the Bresse graben, de- areas (Edel et al., 1975, Egloff, 1979, Hirn, 1976,
scriptions accompanying the corresponding geologi- Zeis, 1988, Zeis et al., 1990), have been merged into
cal maps of France (e.g., 1:50,000-scale quadrangles a joint Moho depth contour map (Prodehl et al., 1992,
for Lons-Le-Saunier and for Ch~lon-sur-Sa6ne) give Fig. 3, reproduced below as Fig. 4-29). For the
many details on boreholes (for references see also southern Rhfne Valley and the Rhinegraben, crustal
Boigk and SchOneich, 1974). The ECORS line thinning of about 20% is seen in comparison to the
through the Bresse graben (Bois et al., 1991, Fig. 4) surrounding areas (Edel et al., 1975, Hirn, 1976),
demonstrates the strong asymmetry of the graben fill, while the new data indicate less thinning for the
which reaches maximum values of about 5 km and Limagne graben (<15%) and no thinning at all for
shows a rather transparent crystalline upper crust the Chaine des Puys. For the northern Rh6ne and
152 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Bresse graben system, the seismic data indicate a pears in between. Another interesting feature is the
reduction in crustal thickness of only 10% in com- low-velocity subcrustal lithosphere which appears
parison with the structure beneath the flanking pla- as an inversion only where "normal" upper mantle
teau de Langres in the west and the Swiss Jura Moun- material is present. According to Perrier and Ruegg
tains in the east (Michel, 1978). The crustal thick- (1973), a high velocity layer of 8.4 km/s rises to
ness shown in this map for the Limagne graben and depths of less than 50 km under the Limagne gra-
its surroundings has been confirmed by new data ben, and resembles the high velocities found by
obtained in 1992. Under the central Limagne gra- Ansorge et al. (1979) beneath the Rhinegraben area
ben a decrease in crustal thickness has been identi- at depths below 40 km.
fied by Landes (Landes, 1994; Zeyen et al., 1994). The anomalously low upper-mantle velocities
However, beyond the southern end of the Limagne seen in the earlier investigations are only partly con-
graben, a more rapid increase of crustal thickness to firmed where the Limagne graben proper is clearly
near 30 km has been found (Novak, 1993; Zeyen et expressed as a depression, but only if the observed
al., 1994), as indicated in the new Moho contour map apparent velocity of 7.4 km/s on the 1992 northern
for the Massif Central (Fig. 4-7; Bauer, in prep., profile is interpreted as a true velocity~in contrast
1995). Also, the formerly assumed thinning of the to the interpretation by Landes (1994) and Zeyen et
crust west of the volcanic areas of the Chaine des al. (1994). Normal crustal thickness near 30 km and
Puys, Mont Dore, C6zallier and Cantal could not be upper-mantle velocities typical for undisturbed
confirmed by the new data set. Variscan crust are evidently not affected by the
Under the southern Rh6ne valley the depth to young volcanic activity and prevail near the termi-
Moho, normally about 30 km, is partly reduced to nation of the Limagne graben.
24-25 km. Considering the different tectonic devel- Interpretation of the recent teleseismic data re-
opment, it is not surprising that the structure under- veals large velocity differences of almost 3-4% be-
neath the flanks to the west and to the east differs tween undisturbed Hercynian areas and the tectoni-
considerably. Underneath the southern Rh6ne de- cally reactivated areas of the Limagne graben and
pression, the total crustal thickness is reduced to 24- surrounding young volcanic zones (Fig. 4-8). The
25 km and also the intermediate boundary between upper two layers of the teleseismic model down to
upper and lower crust rises towards the center of the 60 km depth show two low-velocity zones beneath
valley, overlain by a sedimentary cover nearly 10- the main volcanic complexes. In contrast, between
km-thick. The Moho dips gently from the Rh6ne 60 and 180 km depth, the entire south central part of
valley to the west to about 30 km depth under the the Massif Central is underlain by an approximately
Massif Central and more rapidly to the east towards -3% broad low-velocity structure which is inter-
the Alps (Hirn, 1976; Sapin and Hirn, 1974). preted by Granet et al. (1994) as a plume-type struc-
ture in a cooling stage. According to Granet et al.
4.A5.4. Upper mantle (1994), the thickness of the lithosphere is limited to
about 70-80 km. This is consistent with the lithos-
Perrier and Ruegg (1973) have summarized their pheric thickness proposed by Babuska and
results in an east-west cross section (Fig. 4-5). "Nor- Plomerova (1992). The position of the anomalous
mal" uppermost mantle immediately beneath the low-velocity regions in the lower lithosphere beneath
Moho, with velocities ~8 km/s, is present in the west the volcanic areas is supported by the Bouguer grav-
under the Limousin and Millevaches areas as well ity data. Stoll et al. (1994) compare the seismic
as east of the Bassin du Forez, but evidently disap-

Fig. 4-9. Map of central Europe with simplified geology and location of recent seismic surveys. Base map from Aichroth et al.
(1992). Key: EGT = European Geotraverse refraction line (x = shotpoints E to K), 1A ... 9S = DEKORP seismic-reflection lines.
Other seismic-reflection lines: S = Black Forest, U = Urach geothermal area, KTB = German continental deep drillhole
(Kontinentale Tief-Bohrung). Geographic areas: El = Eifel, HU = Hunsrfick, KR = Kraichgau, LG = Leine graben, OD = Odenwald,
PF = Pf~ilzerwald, RH = Rh6n, SP = Spessart, TA = Taunus, VO = Vogelsberg, WE = Westerwald.
The European Cenozoic rift system 153
154 c. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak
The European Cenozoic rift system 155

tomography image directly with the observed The general strike of the fold axes and the intru-
Bouguer gravity anomalies;and conclude that no or sive masses follows a northeasterly (Hercynian) di-
only a small amount of partial melt in the mantle rection oblique to the axis of the Rhinegraben. In
beneath the Limagne graben and its surroundings is the north, near Frankfurt, the visible Rhinegraben
needed to match the amplitudes of the Bouguer structure is truncated by the Hunsrtick-Taunus fault
anomaly field with the modeled velocity variations. zone, active since Paleozoic times, while in the
south, near Basel, the graben proper is offset by an
east-west trending fault associated with a canyon-
4.B. The Rhinegraben like trough filled with Upper Paleozoic sediments.
4.B3. Geologic information Parallel to and accompanying the young north-north-
easterly oriented border faults of the graben, there
4.B3.1~ Introduction are zones of blasto-mylonites, granitic dikes, fissure
intrusions and shear zones. Most of these lineaments
The most conspicuous segment of the European have been subjected to left-lateral strike-slip move-
Cenozoic rift system is the Rhinegraben in south- ments. According to Edel and Fluck (1989), the
western Germany (Fig. 4-1 and 4-9) which extends present picture of the Rhenish Shield basement, seen
from Basel in northwestern Switzerland to Frank- in outcrops and boreholes in the Rhinegraben area,
furt. The axis of the Rhinegraben is roughly oriented is mainly the result of late Visean-early Namurian
in a north-northeasterly direction. The length of the structural features and is represented by a linear ar-
graben between Basel and Frankfurt amounts to ap- rangement of magmatic bodies and the distribution
proximately 310 km, while its width averages 36 km. of strike-slip and thrust faults.
In its southern part, the Rhinegraben is bordered by Since Upper Permian time, the cratonic basement
the Vosges mountains in the west and by the Black has remained stable, but underwent uniform
Forest in the east. The rift flanks are less elevated in epeirogenic subsidence with subsequent sedimentary
the central part (Saverne and Kraichgau regions), depositions. Based on published seismic data, Edel
whereas to the north (the Pfiilzerwald in the west (1975) has compiled a depth contour map of the
and the Odenwald in the east) they again form higher Hercynian basement for the southern Rhinegraben.
shoulders (Fig. 4-10a). The distribution of Triassic and Lower Jurassic strata
indicates a maximum thickness of about 1.5 km for
4.B3.2. Sedimentary record the entire Mesozoic cover (Fig. 4-10b), but does not
The upper crust of the modern-day Rhinegraben show any relation to the future graben structure. The
area is composed of three different units" the Mesozoic sedimentary units encompass all series
Hercynian (Variscan) basement, the superimposed ranging from Upper Permian to Jurassic. This for-
Mesozoic cover, and the Cenozoic sedimentary fill mation is not folded, but shows signs of intensive
at the top. The Hercynian basement is exposed by dislocations by vertical movements, flexures, and
erosion in the Vosges mountains, the Black Forest, faulting. Boigk and SchOneich (1970) have compiled
the Odenwald, and parts of the Pfiilzerwald. It con- contour maps of distribution and thickness of the
sists of Precambrian gneisses, folded Paleozoic sedi- various Mesozoic layers for the Rhinegraben area
ments, and granites as well as volcanic rocks mostly and a subsequent publication by the same authors
of Carboniferous age. Locally, parts of the Lower (Boigk and SchOneich, 1974) extends these paleo-
Permian are folded.

Fig. 4-10. (a) Thickness distribution of sedimentary fill of the Rhinegraben and contours of simultaneous flank uplift (from Illies,
1974b, Fig. 1). (b) Cross section of the Rhinegraben showing its sedimentary fill (from lilies, 1974b, fig. 2). Stratigraphic key: 1 =
Lymnaea marls, 2 = Pechelbronn beds, 3 = Grey beds, 4 = Niederroedem beds, 5 = Aquitanium, 6 = Upper Miocene, 7 = Plio-
Pleistocene.
156 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

geographic contour maps from the Rhinegraben of the graben continued to subside and Pliocene-
through the Bresse-Rhfne graben areas to the Medi- Pleistocene deposits here reach thicknesses up to
terranean Sea. 1000 m (Ziegler, 1992). In total, since Eocene times
The uppermost layer is the filled sedimentary the graben has been filled with nearly 19,000 km 3 of
trough of the Rhinegraben which comprises a tem- sediments (Roll, 1979). Most of these sediments have
poral sequence spanning the period from Middle been derived from the denudation of the graben
Eocene to Quaternary. For the southern part of the flanks the volume of which has been estimated by
graben, Doebl (1970) has published detailed isopach Roll to amount to-,27,000 km 3.
maps and an isobath contour map of the base of the
Tertiary. The isobath map was subsequently redrawn 4.B3.3. Igneous activity
for the entire Rhinegraben (Doebl and Olbrecht,
1974). Development of the trough started with ir- Rift valley volcanism started in the Rhinegraben
regular flat depressions in Lower to Middle Eocene area as early as 80 Ma with pipes, dikes, necks,
time. Initial syn-rift deposits consist of lacustrine diatremes, and occasional flows, which lasted until
shales and carbonatites and fringing clastics, fol- 13 Ma (Fig. 4-2). The volcanics erupted almost ex-
lowed by an evaporitic sequence (Ziegler, 1992). clusively along faults in the highlands bordering the
Stronger depressions followed in the Upper Eocene, graben area. With the exception of the Kaiserstuhl
particularly in the south. During latest Eocene and which lies on the intersection of the north-south-
early Oligocene, marine incursions reached the striking main fault and the northeast-southwest-strik-
Rhinegraben from the West Alpine foreland basin ing Bonndorf graben fault system, the main graben
(e.g. Sittler, 1969; Doebl and Teichmtiller, 1979). fault is free of volcanics (Lippolt et al., 1974). The
During the Tertiary the area of greatest depres- Miocene Kaiserstuhl complex is the only area with
sion migrated gradually northward to the area around shallow-level fractionation of the graben-related
Mannheim (Figs. 4-10b and 4-11). After a break in volcanism (Keller, 1990). To the east, southeast of
Miocene times, the deepening process continued and Stuttgart (Fig. 4-2), the so-called Swabian volcano
is probably still active today. During the Oligocene, (Geyer and Gwinner, 1968, M/iussnest, 1974a) has
rifting reached the Rhenish Massif. This led to the perforated the Mesozoic cover with more than 300
development of a narrow sea-way linking the Alpine volcanic conduits between 16-11 Ma, while numer-
foreland basin with the Northwest European basin ous eruptions of the Hegau, west of Lake Constance
via the Rhine and Leine grabens (Vinken, 1988). (Fig. 4-2), covered the time period between 15 and
These marine connections remained intermittently 7 Ma and produced some highly visible, but deeply
open until the late Oligocene when brackish condi- eroded, volcanic edifices (Geyer and Gwinner, 1968,
tions were established in the Rhinegraben. Uplift of Schreiner, 1984). The nearest major volcanic erup-
the southern Rhinegraben-Vosges-Black Forest dome tions to the north start again in the Vogelsberg which
started during the late middle Miocene (Laubscher, is already part of the Hessen depression (to be de-
1987). At about this time, the southern parts of the scribed in the next section). The Tertiary volcanism
Rhinegraben ceased to subside (Villemin and of the Rhinegraben area is dominated by highly un-
Coletta, 1990). In contrast, the northern parts of the dersaturated primitive magmas of the alkali-basal-
Rhinegraben continued to subside during the Mi- tic series. Olivine-melilitites and olivine-nephelinites
ocene, resulting in a deposition of up to 1500 m of are primary compositions. They likely originated at
mainly shales and sands (Illies, 1974a, Sittler, 1969, ~ 100 km depth in a garnet-lherzolite mantle. Degrees
von Eller and Sittler, 1974, Roll, 1979). During the of partial melting are very low. According to
Pliocene and Pleistocene, further uplift of the Vosges geochemical and isotopic criteria, asthenospheric
and the Black Forest flanks was paralleled by slow mantle is the most likely source of these magmas
intermittent subsidence of the southern Rhinegraben, (Keller, 1990). Between 16 and 8 Ma melilite-
resulting in a relatively thin cover of the Oligocene ankaratrite and phonolites predominate in the
sediments by Quaternary gravels. The northern parts Kaiserstuhl and Hegau (Lippolt et al., 1974).
The European Cenozoic rift system 157

I moinly~
dip.slip HGZinocfive Lote Ouoternory
ond Recent
e , ~o, o, _~\.\\ .---~ , II v.

direction ~ m , , ~ $wobionJuro
of rninimurnl~" , m v~l" strike ~slipzone
compressive stress U~'6~
moin/y_ direction of
strike.slip moximum compressivestress
,

41,
H6Z
$tort of LRG .~ Middle Iertiory
tophrogenesis ..~
35 ~y. ego "" "

9 moincenters
of volcomsm

UR6
t
Subhercynion
ond loromide
folds, HGZ Lote Cretoceous
ond LowerTertiory

foue e - - 1 ~ j, "//
[/[~ pressureoxis of
J ] / _ tl:slyloMes

ueo # ~')
slorl of tophrogenesis
~-~Snzy ago t.Ahorner Ig?l

Fig. 4-11. Rotating stress field and the tectonic evolution of the Rhinegraben system showing stress field at 40 Ma, 20 Ma, and
Recent (from Illies, 1974c, fig. 2).
158 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

f I
MBI ' I

/.9"
I
+ I
I,~ -t
I

I ~
I Id,
d,i ~'
I
I
Na I

I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I

-090

Rhil~e

t , , ,O, 50., km

7" 8 ~ 9*

Fig. 4-12. Location map of seismic-refraction profiles in the central and southern Rhinegraben before 1987 (extended from Edel et
al., 1975, fig. 1).

4.B3.4. Xenolith studies hornblendites (Sachs, 1988). A model crustal pro-


file has been proposed by Mengel et al. (1991) based
Crustal xenoliths were found in the Urach and on calculated or measured P-wave velocities of xe-
Hegau volcanic areas, but not in the Rhinegraben noliths and depth-Vp relationships, and has been
proper. They include medium-to-high-grade superimposed on a seismic cross section along the
metasedimentary and felsic-to-mafic meta-igneous European Geotraverse (Franke et al., 1990b, Prodehl
rocks. Also present are pyroxenites and and Aichroth, 1992). The resulting crustal model
The European Cenozoic rift system 159

Fig. 4-13. Map of the central and southern Rhinegraben showing velocity-depth distributions for the corresponding profiles (for
location see Fig. 4-12). The velocity-depth functions are representative for the area in which they have been plotted (from Edel et
al., 1975, fig. 15).

beneath the Hegau and Urach areas consists largely 4.B4. Geophysical surveys and results
of metasediments with subordinate felsic meta-ig-
neous rocks. As most of the metasedimentary 4.B4.1. Seismic studies
samples seem to be depleted in felsic components,
The first evidence for an anomalously thin crust
the authors suggest intracrustal differentiation by
beneath the southern Rhinegraben was indicated by
partial melting. The mafic and ultramafic xenoliths
Roth6 and Peterschmitt (1950) by analysis of seis-
of both areas differ in their mineralogy and chemi-
mic records from large explosions near Haslach in
cal composition from the samples found in the
the central Black Forest. However, a systematic geo-
Rhenish Massif area and thus seem to reflect a con-
physical investigation of the Rhinegraben rift sys-
trasting style of crustal evolution. Glahn et al. (1992)
tem was not started until 1965 when an international
discuss in detail the petrological composition of crust
program was initiated (Roth6 and Sauer, 1967).
and upper mantle of the Urach area in a joint inter-
Synoptic interpretations of all available seismic-
pretation of their teleseismic and xenolith investi-
refraction measurements up to 1972 were based pri-
gations.
marily on quarry blast recordings supplemented by
deep crustal reflection observations (Schulz, 1957;
160 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Fig. 4-14. Seismic-reflection line drawing of the ECORS/DEKORP-S line (from Brunet al., 1991). For location, see 9S in Figure
4-9.

Demnati and Dohr, 1965; Dohr, 1967, 1970), and above-mentioned asymmetry and would place the
led to the following results (Ansorge et al., 1970; hypocenters close to the "roof" of the crustal low-
Meissner et al., 1970; Mueller, 1970; Mueller et al., velocity zone.
1969, 1973): (6) Prominent echoes arriving at about 7.0 to 9.5
(1) A low-velocity zone was found in the upper seconds two-way traveltime (TWT) were identified
part of the crust under the western flank of the in crustal reflection work, providing evidence for a
Rhinegraben which widens considerably as the cen- lamellar structure in the depth interval between about
ter of the graben is approached. 18-20 and 25 km, i.e. within the lower crust imme-
(2) The presence of an intermediate high-veloc- diately below the crustal low-velocity zone.
ity layer (also termed "cushion") was postulated in After this exploratory phase, the first specially
the depth range of the crust-mantle transition whose designed seismic-refraction experiment was per-
dimensions, however, could not be delineated with formed in the southern part of the Rhinegraben in
data available at that time. 1972 (Rhinegraben Research Group, 1974; Edel et
(3) The width of the Rhinegraben rift system, i.e. al., 1975; Prodehl et al., 1976).
of the "modified" lithospheric structure beneath the The most important explosion source for the 1972
rift, was estimated to be about 200 km. In compari- seismic-refraction experiment was a shotpoint near
son, the morphological graben which is offset from Steinbrunn (SB) at the southern end of the
the center of the rift system has an average width of Rhinegraben near Basel (Figs. 4-2 and 4-12), where
only 36 km. a series of borehole shots was observed fan-like
(4) The most conspicuous feature of the rift was along various profiles into the Rhinegraben, into its
its asymmetry, both with regard to the sedimentary eastern and western flanks, and along the Franco-
infill of the graben and the crustal structure, indi- Swiss Jura towards the southwest (Egloff, 1979).
cating that the rifting process must have started at In 1984, within the framework of the Deep Con-
the eastern margin of the graben. It seemed as if the tinental Drilling Program (KTB), a second very de-
asymmetry reached to depths of 18 to 20 km. tailed seismic survey was carried out in the Black
(5) The depth of earthquake foci determined by Forest along a north-south line using seismic-refrac-
macro- and microseismic methods did not exceed tion as well as reflection techniques (Fuchs et al.,
12 km beneath the graben proper, while under the 1987; Gajewski and Prodehl, 1987; Gajewski, 1989;
eastern flank of the rift, focal depths of 6 to 8 km Ltischen et al., 1987, 1989).
seemed to prevail. These observations confirmed the
The European Cenozoic rift system 161

Fig. 4-15. Crustal model of the Black Forest and Swiss Jura, derived from a compilation of geophysical data (from Liischen et al.,
1987, 1989). From top to bottom: structural data from a Vibroseis seismic-reflection survey, velocity model, Bouguer gravity
anomaly (small dots) and heat flow (large dots), seismicity distribution (magnitudes between 1 and 5, projected within a strip of +10
km width). The transect of Figure 4-17 crosses this line near Haslach.

In the northern part of the graben area, no mod- the Rhinegraben (see Fig. 4-14; Brun et al., 1991,
ern seismic-refraction surveys have been completed, 1992, Gutscher, 1991, Wenzel et al., 1991). Two
and for all compilations of crustal structure, only short seismic-reflection lines were added in 1990 and
the older quarry blast observations recorded prior to 1991 in the transition from the Black Forest to the
1972 are available (Meissner et al., 1970, 1976b; Dinkelberg block at the southern end of the
Meissner and Vetter, 1974). Rhinegraben, NE of Basel (Echtler et al., 1994).
High-resolution seismic-reflection lines through Using existing data recorded by the permanent
the Rhinegraben were enabled by a cooperative local network stations that were installed around the
project of ECORS and DEKORP. In the fall of 1988, Rhinegraben by the Universities of Karlsruhe in
two ECORS-DEKORP seismic-reflection lines (9S Germany, Strasbourg in France, and Ziirich in Swit-
and 9N in Figs. 4-2 and 4-9) were recorded across zerland, in order to study the seismicity of the gra-
162 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

ben (see section 4.B4.4 - Seismicity), various seis- known as phase PR by Ansorge et al. (1970), phase 1
mic tomography studies have been made by Edel et al. (1975) or phase c by Gajewski and
(Wenderoth, 1978, Raikes and Bonjer, 1983, Koch, Prodehl (1987). Another strong reflected phase, re-
1993a, b). However, because of the small number ferred to as phase Pc by Ansorge et al. (1970), phase
and the wide spacing of the available permanent sta- 2 by Edel et al. (1975) and phase b by Gajewski and
tions, these studies lack the details that have been Prodehl (1985, 1987), is also observed on many pro-
achieved by the specially arranged teleseismic sur- files. It is identified as a wide-angle reflection from
veys using portable equipment described in the fol- the top of the lower crust or, in the classical termi-
lowing paragraphs. nology, from the top of the Conrad discontinuity,
Within the graben proper, the location of the which beneath the Black Forest and the S wabian
ECORS-DEKORP line coincides with the location Volcano, coincides with the bottom of a mid-crustal
of a teleseismic cross section through the southern low-velocity zone. The relative amplitudes of both
Rhinegraben area (Fig. 4-9) which was installed in phases vary systematically. In profiles crossing the
1988 and 1989. The array consisted of a dense net- flanks of the Rhinegraben or located entirely out-
work of short-period stations that covered essentially side the graben, the PraP reflection (phase 2) shows
two parallel lines of about 200 km length across the the strongest amplitudes and the intermediate reflec-
southern Rhinegraben between Strasbourg and the tion (phase 1) is less well developed. Within the gra-
Kaiserstuhl volcano (Glahn and Granet, 1992, Glahn ben, phase 2 is dominant and phase 1 is either hid-
et al., 1993). A depth range of about 100 km was den by the coda of the high-amplitude phase 2 or is
achieved. too weak to be recognized. As a consequence, in the
The area of the Swabian Volcano to the east of resulting crustal models (Fig. 4-13), the Moho ap-
the Rhinegraben was traversed by several seismic pears either as a first-order discontinuity (strong
surveys, most of which, however, did not reach into phase 1 = PMP) beneath the flanks, or as a broad tran-
the Rhinegraben proper. In 1978, the Urach geother- sition zone (dominant phase 2) beneath the graben
mal area was the goal of a multidisciplinary research proper.
effort (Hiinel, 1982) which also comprised detailed The most detailed and accurate crustal model per-
seismic reflection (Bartelsen et al., 1982), refraction tains to the eastern flank of the southern graben,
(Jentsch et al, 1982, Gajewski and Prodehl, 1985) underneath the Black Forest (Fig. 4-15), based on
and teleseismic (Glahn et al., 1992) investigations. the combined seismic reflection and refraction sur-
The detailed Black Forest investigation of 1984 vey carried out as pre-site surveys for possible KTB
(Gajewski and Prodehl, 1987) also comprised two drilling sites. Combined interpretation of refraction
lines from the Rhinegraben to the east: (1) a NW- and reflection data in the Black Forest has revealed
SE line through the northern Black Forest and an additional feature of the lower crust: a fine struc-
Hohenzollerngraben into the Molasse Basin, and (2) ture showing thin layers of alternating high and low
a SW-NE-line through the southern Black Forest and velocities. The possible existence of such a lamina-
along the Swabian Jura (Gajewski et al., 1987). The tion of the lower crust was proposed earlier by Fuchs
area was further traversed by the European (1970), Meissner (1967, 1973), and Mueller et al.
Geotraverse (Fig. 4-2 and 4-9; Aichroth et al., 1992, (1969, 1973), but could only be proven quantitatively
Prodehl and Aichroth, 1992). Finally, the teleseismic with the aid of detailed amplitude-distance obser-
survey in the Urach geothermal area recorded more vations together with the computational modeling
than 300 teleseismic events (Glahn et al., 1992) of synthetic seismograms using the reflectivity
achieving a depth penetration of about 70 km using method (Deichmann and Ansorge, 1983; Sandmeier
a mobile array of digital short-period stations be- and Wenzel, 1986; Wenzel et al., 1987). In order to
tween 1985 and 1987. model also lateral changes of the properties of the
The most prominent phase seen in the seismic- laminated lower crust, Gajewski and Prodehl (1987)
refraction data is interpreted as PMP, i.e. the wide- applied the ray method, in which, however, some
angle reflection from the crust-mantle boundary, also simplifications had to be introduced.
The European Cenozoic rift system 163

Saverne.Saarebourg
gravity high

<
o2~-40
v observed gravity . -*"

calculated gravity -~"


~-80
ECORS/DEKORP 9S 9I
O
Lorraine Basin Vosges Rhine Graben Black Forest Molasse

C) " ~ " ;0 E~) I~ 11~) 1:2I) 1~) 1613 ' '


-2.62 , , ~ , 2.62 2.33
I 2.58

15 2.75
2.90
-r

iii
2.97 3.27

35
do "1 o 2'4o
PROFILE (KM)

Fig. 4-16. Gravity model along the ECORS/DEKORP-S line (from Prodehl et al., 1992, fig. 7). For location, see 9S in Figure 4-9.

The recent ECORS-DEKORP-S seismic-reflec- the uplifted Odenwald. At the same time the reflec-
tion profile (Fig. 4-14), crossing the southern tion signature changes, indicating in the west a re-
Rhinegraben (9S in Figs. 4-2 and Fig. 4-9; Brun et duced reflectivity between reflections originating
al., 1991), shows a sharply defined Moho at the base from the mid-crustal and the Moho level as com-
of a layered lower crust, decreasing in depth from pared to a distinctly layered lower crust in the east.
8.5 s two-way traveltime (TWT) under the Black The Moho rises from west to east from 10.5s to 8.7
Forest to 8 s under the Rhinegraben and then pro- s TWT (Wenzel et al., 1991).
gressively descending northwestward to 10 s at the
northwestern end of the profile in Lorraine, to the 4.B4.2. Gravity
west of the Vosges mountains-Pf~ilzerwald. Here, as
well as under the Black Forest, the highly reflective Magnetic and gravimetric data of the Upper
lower crust is well defined with a 3 s TWT mean Rhenish Shield basement in the Vosges, the Upper
thickness which progressively decreases to 2 s TWT Rhine segment of the Rhinegraben, and the Black
and less below the graben, with a somewhat asym- Forest were correlated by Edel and Fluck (1989) with
metric shape. geological observations on outcrops and in bore-
In the northern Rhinegraben (profile DEKORP- holes. The resulting map demonstrates a contrast
ECORS-9N), the thickness of the lower crust de- between a "heavy" and "magnetic" Saxothuringian
creases from 5.5.s TWT in the Saar-Nahe depres- basement, characterized by Paleozoic units metamor-
sion, west of the graben, where a distinct Variscan phosed to varying degrees and intruded by Early
heritage of thrusting, extension, and rhyolitic vol-
canism is evident, to 3.5 s TWT in the east beneath
164 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Carboniferous basites, and the "lighter" 100 mgal, which could not be compensated by the
Moldanubian, consisting mainly of gneisses and Mesozoic sedimentary graben fill, as evidence of a
granites. deep-seated thermal anomaly beneath the graben.
Bouguer gravity data provide valuable informa- Elevated P,wave velocities in the lowermost crust
tion on the shallow and deep crustal structure par- of 6.7-7.4 km/s (Ltischen et al., 1987, Edel et al.,
ticularly when integrated with data from seismic re- 1975), combined with a high Poisson's ratio of 0.25-
fraction and reflection surveys (Kahle and Werner, 0.28 (Holbrook et al., 1987, 1988) suggest a pre-
1980; Setto and Meissner, 1987; Truffert et al., 1990; dominantly mafic, dense lower crust (2.9-3.0 g/cm3).
Wagener and G0tze, 1989; Gutscher, 1991; Rousset The resulting, moderate density contrast at the crust-
et al., 1993). mantle boundary of 0.3 g/cm 3 provides a good fit
Interpreting the Bouguer gravity map of Germany with the observed Bouguer values in southwestern
compiled by Grosse and Conrad (1990), Grosse et Germany for both 2-D and 3-D gravity calculations.
al. (1990) attributed the Rhinegraben minimum Such a small density contrast contradicts the pres-
largely to the Tertiary sedimentary fill of the graben ence of a large, low-density body as previously sug-
as suggested by the steep gradients. From a detailed gested by Kahle and Werner (1980).
Bouguer anomaly map, which was compiled in the The Lorraine basin gravity minimum is due to a
context of the ECORS-DEKORP project, Rousset local increase in crustal thickness and the presence
and Bayer (1990) constructed a residual anomaly of moderately dense Mesozoic and Late Paleozoic
map by subtracting the effects of the Tertiary gra- sediments. The Saverne-Saarebourg gravity high is
ben fill, the Moho depth variations and the deeper interpreted (based on its short wavelength) as being
mantle anomalies. The resultant map gives a picture caused by upper crustal crystalline units of an inter-
of the crustal density variations. It should be noted mediate to mafic composition (e.g., gneisses, gra-
that in the map of Grosse et al. (1990) additional nodiorites, diorites, and gabbros), which outcrop
positive axes are indicated along both flanks of the locally within the Saxothuringian zone in the
graben. Pfiilzerwald and in the Odenwald (Edel and Fluck,
Figure 4-16 gives an integrated 250 km long pro- 1989). The Rhinegraben minimum can be largely
file which extends from the Lorraine Basin through explained by the 1.0-1.5 km of Tertiary fill overly-
the Rhinegraben to the Molasse Basin south of Lake ing 1 km of Mesozoic pre-rift sediments. However,
Constance, and parallels the ECORS-DEKORP 9S some contribution from lateral compositional het-
reflection line (Fig. 4-9). This profile shows that the erogeneities in the crystalline basement is also re-
Rhinegraben is marked by a gravity low of about- quired, which can be correlated with Variscan gran-
30 mGal which is flanked by relative highs o f - 5 ites outcropping in the northern Black Forest and
mGal in the Vosges and-10 mGal in the Black For- the south-central Vosges.
est. Towards the SE, in the Molasse Basin the Rousset et al. (1993) have computed a similar
Bouguer gravity anomaly drops below -80 mGal. density model along the ECORS-DEKORP-9S line.
The Moho structure was taken from available seis- They emphasize the striking contrast in the upper
mic data. Total crustal thickness is 30 km in the NW crust between the dense and shallow structures of
below the Lorraine Basin, thins rapidly to 25 km Barrandian or Cadomian origin located in the
below the Rhinegraben, and increases progressively Saxothuringian domain (northwestern part of the
towards the SE as the Alps are approached, reach- seismic line in Lorraine) and the abundant low-den-
ing 32 km south of Lake Constance. sity granites in the Moldanubian domain (eastern part
In agreement with Grosse et al. (1990) and of the seismic line in the central Black Forest). Their
Rousset and Bayer (1990), the gravity cross section model also highlights the main seismic results: an
presented in Figure 4-16 does not require a thermal uplift of the Moho from 32 km west of, to 25 km
mantle anomaly as was suggested by earlier investi- beneath, the graben and a thinning and deepening of
gations (Kahle and Werner, 1980). Kahle and Werner the denser lower crust. They attribute the thinning
interpreted a pronounced Bouguer anomaly of about of the crust to the time before Cenozoic rifting be-
The European Cenozoic rift system 165

gan, based on the long-wavelength character of the Karlsruhe, seismic activity is rather moderate.
crustal thinning. In this way, they also explain the Higher levels of activity are monitored in the north-
27-29 km depths under the Moldanubian domain of ern and southern sections as shown in published seis-
southern Germany (e.g., Gajewski and Prodehl, micity maps and in depth-distribution sections across
1985, 1987; Zeis et al., 1990) with a pre-Tertiary the Rhinegraben area and along the axes of the
thinning of the Hercynian crust. Rhinegraben and the Black Forest (Bonjer et al.,
1984, Wilhelm et al., 1989, Koch, 1993a, b).
4.B4.3. Magnetic anomalies Of particular interest is an east-west variation
across the graben area; the number of earthquakes
Edel and Fluck (1989) identified highly magnetic as well as the focal depth increases from west to-
bodies in the northern Vosges as andesites and basalts wards east, as can be noted in depth distribution pro-
(Bruche valley) and micro-diorites and diorites files across the graben (Bonjer et al., 1984, Wilhelm
(Champ du Feu Massif), and they correlate gabbros et al., 1989, Koch, 1993b). This asymmetry in the
and diorites in the Odenwald with a large NE-SW seismicity pattern is particularly clear in the south-
trending magnetic anomaly seen in the aeromagnetic ernmost graben. In general, the greatest depth of
map of Germany north of Mannheim (Eberle, 1973). events is limited to 16 km, but in the Dinkelberg
During many years of elaborate fieldwork, block at the southeastern edge of the Rhinegraben,
M~iussnest (1973, 1974a, b) systematically mapped NE of Basel, and in the adjacent southern Black
basaltic eruptions on the eastern flank of the Forest, particularly deep hypocenters of more than
Rhinegraben, comprising in particular the volcanic 20 km depth have been determined (Bonjer, 1992,
provinces of the Hegau, the Swabian Jura and the Faber et al., 1994). In the Vosges Mountains and the
Kraichgau. During these investigations various ba- graben proper, focal depths of 16 km are not ex-
saltic features hidden under the sedimentary cover ceeded (Bonjer, 1992, Bonjer et al., 1984, 1989,
(dikes, small volcanoes) had been discovered. In the Gelbke, 1978). Also the apparent evidence of seis-
Black Forest and the Kaiserstuhl area similar field- mic gaps of 4-6 km width recognized along the east-
work and their interpretation had been undertaken ern master fault zone has been discussed (Gelbke,
(e.g., Greiner and Sittig, 1971; Hahn and Pucher, 1978, Koch, 1993b).
1982). An exceptionally high level of seismic activity
The transect of Figure 4-17b shows a profile of occurs in the area of the Hohenzollerngraben located
aeromagnetic observations across the Rhinegraben. to the east between the Rhinegraben and the Urach
A "pearl-string" of small magnetic anomalies in volcano. This area has been the site of relatively
southern Germany is correlated by Franke et al. strong earthquakes since 1911, which are aligned in
(1990b) with the Saxothuringian/Moldanubian an almost N-S direction, oblique to the NW-SE
boundary. The cross section makes use of a map of striking graben; the focal mechanisms are of a left-
aeromagnetic anomalies compiled by Eberle (1973) lateral strike-slip mode (Illies, 1982, Schneider,
for western Germany. 1971). The earthquake dislocations of the events af-
ter 1911, with magnitudes of more than 5, have been
4.B4.4. Seismicity estimated to be from 10 to 25 cm (M~lzer, 1988).
The seismicity of the Rhinegraben has been stud-
ied by a network of varying station-density since the 4.B4.5. Stress pattern
mid-1960s and seismicity maps have been prepared From stress tensor determinations and investiga-
spanning various time periods (Bonjer, 1992, Bonjer tions of striated microfaults and calcite twin lamel-
et al., 1984, 1989, Gelbke, 1978, Wilhelm et al., lae analyses, Larroque and Laurent (1988) develop
1989). In comparison with other continental graben a stress field evolution for the southern part of the
systems, the seismicity of the Rhinegraben is low Rhinegraben from the Eocene to the present. Their
and varies considerably with time. In the middle sec- model (Larroque and Laurent, 1988, Fig. 18) shows
tion of the graben, between Strasbourg and a relatively uniform stress field during the Eocene
166 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

with SHmaxapproximately N-S which changes to an 4.B4.6. Heat flow


extensional regime during the Oligocene in the
Rhinegraben and its northern branches. Only areas Heat flow measurements carried out during the
in the southern graben are then still subjected to a KTB pre-site investigations in the Black Forest range
compressional regime which could episodically af- from 70 to 105 mWm -2 (Burkhardt et al., 1989,
fect infilling in the southern part of the graben. Af- Wilhelm et al., 1989) and also indicate that the flanks
ter a period of relative quiescence, a second phase of the Rhinegraben are thermally influenced by the
of extension began in early Miocene. In the Miocene, taphrogenesis. Compared to the mean heat-flow den-
emplacement of the Jura caused a N-S compression sity of 70 to 81 mWm -2 for Germany (H~inel, 1982),
in that sector, and heavy sedimentation during the values measured in the Rhinegraben range from 70
late Oligocene affected only the northern graben. to 140 mWm -2 and indicate the occurrence of sig-
Since the Miocene the regional modern stress field nificant local thermal anomalies within the rift.
is characterized by a NW to NNW direction of the These anomalies have widths smaller than 1 km and
maximum compressive horizontal principal stress their intensity increases with depth (Morgan, 1982).
San~x oriented N140 ~ (Fig. 4-3), and a left-lateral Local groundwater circulation certainly contributes
strike slip faulting regime that was initiated in the significantly to the generation of these anomalies.
Quaternary (Ahorner, 1975, Illies and Greiner, Cermak et al. (1991) have compiled all heat flow
1978). data measured in western Germany. As most of these
Regional compilations of present-day stress indi- values were determined in fairly shallow boreholes
cators in western Europe (Fig. 4-3; MOiler et al., of 50-300 m depth, the authors corrected all values
1992, Fig. 11) have outlined a generally uniform for surface topography and for the effect of long-
maximum compressive horizontal principal stress term paleo-climatic changes. The resulting contour
(Sam~x) orientation of NW-SE direction (Ahorner, map (Cermak et al., 1991, Fig. 2) shows a pro-
1970, 1975, Illies and Greiner, 1979, Mtiller et al., nounced heat-flow anomaly of over 100 mWm -2 for
1992). The data obtained in the Rhinegraben show the Rhinegraben, with an inferred maximum of 120
the same trend. The focal mechanism data in the mWm -2 between Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden, and
Rhinegraben area indicate a mixture of predomi- an average of 80-90 mWm-2 under the Black Forest
nantly strike-slip faulting and normal faulting. All and the Swabian Jura to the east.
have consistent SHmaxdirection of about N150~ in
agreement with the studies of borehole breakouts and 4.B4.7. Geodetic data
hydraulic fracturing in boreholes in the Rhinegraben The map of elevation changes (DGK-Arbeitskreis,
and its vicinity (Becker et al., 1987, MOiler et al., 1979, M~ilzer, 1988, M~ilzer and Zippelt, 1986)
1992, Plenefisch and Bonjer, 1994). shows a maximum uplift in the area of the
Fault plane solutions of more than 30 earthquakes Pf~ilzerwald, underneath the northwestern shoulder
(Bonjer et al., 1984) demonstrate that the seismic of the Rhinegraben (+ 0.5 mm/yr). Under the north-
dislocations take place predominantly as left-lateral ern graben proper and to the east in the Kraichgau
strike slip mechanisms in the southern graben area, region a subsidence is observed which reaches maxi-
whereas normal faulting prevails in the north. In the mum values of-0.8 mm/yr, while the central gra-
northern graben, Bonjer et al. (1984) have observed ben around Karlsruhe is an area of uplift (0.3-0.5
that most of the seismic dislocations occur on fault mm/yr). The northern and central Black Forest seems
segments striking N30~ whereas in the south a to be a relatively stable block, while the southern
strike of N20~ or N60~ (conjugate direction) is Black Forest, south of Badenweiler-Lenzkirch fault
dominant. Furthermore the authors note a clockwise zone, may be slightly tilting towards south with sub-
rotation of the principal stress directions from north sidences up to 0.5 mm/yr. No data are available for
to south by about 40". the southwestern Rhinegraben.
The European Cenozoic rift system 167

A special investigation was carried out in the low resistivity "layer" (a conductance of about 400
Hohenzollerngraben. Here, three geodetic test-nets to 800 S) between 25 and 45 km depths must disap-
were established, and a preliminary result indicates, pear at a distance about 50 km east of the eastern
for some points, significant displacement vectors up Rhinegraben border.
to 4 mm which suggest a relative clockwise rotation A low-resistivity layer between 12 and 15 km
against a stabilized field. Also, significant subsid- depth with a conductance of 650 S has been inferred
ences of 1 mm/yr and greater were observed during by Tezkan (1988; see also Berktold, 1989) from a
a 12 year period which point to recent active verti- combined interpretation of short-period
cal kinematics (Mfilzer, 1988). magnetotellurics and geomagnetic depth sounding
data in the Black Forest. He discusses convincingly
4.B4.8. Electromagnetic studies that this layer cannot continue beneath the
Rhinegraben, but seems to be confined to the Black
Besides seismic methods, electrical resistivity Forest. From a number of 2D-model calculations,
research is a powerful tool to investigate deep crustal
Teufel (1986) concludes that this shallow low-resis-
and upper-mantle structure. In the Rhinegraben elec-
tivity layer should also be limited to a distance about
trical resistivity research started about 20 years ago 50 km eastward of the eastern graben border. This
when electromagnetic methods were still in the early agrees with several intensive electromagnetic stud-
stage of their development. Therefore, some of these ies further to the east of the Black Forest, towards
early results may be questionable due to poor data
(and including) the Urach volcanic area (inactive
quality and/or less sophisticated processing and in-
since 15 Ma), which revealed no pronounced low-
terpretation methods. Nevertheless, the results of all resistivity layer anywhere within the crust (Berktold
studies which are available today agree in their gen-
and Kemmerle, 1982, Richards et al., 1982). There
eral aspects (see, e.g., Wilhelm et al., 1989).
does not yet exist any model calculation which com-
The first magnetotelluric measurement in the
bines Tezkan's and Reitmayr's low-resistivity struc-
Rhinegraben was made by Losecke (1970) at a single tures.
site about 20 km north of Karlsruhe. The inferred
In the surroundings of the proposed Black For-
low-resistivity layer at about 25 km depth, which
est-KTB site, controlled-source LOTEM (Long Off-
was widely recognized in the literature as being typi-
set Transient ElectroMagnetic system) soundings
cal for a rift structure, appeared to be more of an
found an electromagnetically determined anomalous
accidental result. Nevertheless, this result was con-
2-km thick low-resistivity layer in the depth range
firmed by subsequent, more detailed magnetotelluric
between 7 and 11 km, which could not be resolved
profiles across the Rhinegraben (Scheelke, 1972,
by magnetotelluric depth soundings with periods
1974), one of which is coincident with the transect
greater than 10 s (Wilhelm et al., 1989). Wilhelm et
in Figure 4-17 discussed below. The final model of
al. explain such layers of high electrical conductiv-
the electrical resistivity was obtained by modeling
ity by possible horizontal movements of fluids or
the apparent resistivity and the phases of E- and B-
by a relic of overthrusted, graphite-containing meta-
polarizations at periods of 10, 100, and 1000 s at all
sediments which have been found among surface
stations into a 2D-model (Scheelke, 1972, 1974). A rocks.
very similar resistivity model has been inferred from
only electric field measurements (telluric method)
by Haak and Reitmayr, 1974). Winter (1974), using 4.B5. Structure and interpretation
the independent geomagnetic depth sounding method
along Scheelke's profile 1, derived a model compa- 4.B5.1. Introduction
rable to Scheelke's, resulting in a low-resistivity
The more recent and more detailed data that have
layer in the crust between 25 and 45 km. Based on
become available since 1972 comprise in particular
the calculation of geomagnetic depth sounding trans-
the addition of high-resolution, near-vertical, and
fer functions, Reitmayr (1975) concluded that this
wide-angle seismic-reflection data obtained in the
168 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Rhinegraben area. These data have led to a detailed lower depths, also beneath the Black Forest.
modeling and a new understanding of the crustal and Magnetotelluric data obtained in the Black Forest
upper-mantle structure beneath the Rhinegraben and suggest that near the bottom of the seismic low-ve-
its surrounding flanks. locity zone a thin layer of high conductivity is
The transect of Figure 4-17 summarizes the avail- present at 12-15 km depth (Tezkan, 1988). The con-
able geophysical data. It extends from Lun6ville in ductivity anomaly, the seismic velocity inversion,
northeastern France to Sigmaringen in southwest and any other stronger velocity discontinuity disap-
Germany, crosses the Lorraine basin, the Vosges, the pear further east, and only under the Molasse basin
Rhinegraben about 20 km south of Strasbourg, and is a minor velocity inversion again indicated.
the Black Forest in a WNW-ESE direction. Further Information about the upper-mantle structure is
east, the transect bypasses the geothermal anomaly scarce. From traveltime residuals, Wenderoth (1978)
of Urach to the south, and crosses the Swabian Jura has deduced an intrusion of asthenospheric material
in a southeasterly direction between Rottweil and into the lithosphere under the graben proper, which
Sigmaringen to end in the Molasse Basin near seems to agree with magnetotelluric and geomag-
Saulgau. It should be pointed out that the structures netic depth sounding observations (Scheelke, 1972,
shown in Figure 4-17 have only been observed in 1974; Winter, 1974; Reitmayr, 1975). According to
the central part of the Rhinegraben and that any gen- Reitmayr (1975) the mushroom-like updoming of the
eralization may lead to contradictions with data ob- conductosphere (- asthenosphere) is restricted to the
served further south or north. This is particularly true immediate neighborhood of the graben and is not
for the polarity of main faulting evident in seismic- seen about 50 km to the east of the graben (Fig. 4-
reflection data and for the upper-mantle low-veloc- 17). The high upper-mantle velocities derived from
ity area derived from teleseismic delay time stud- long-offset observations of P-wave data for the area
ies. east of the Rhinegraben (Ansorge et al., 1979, Stangl,
The seismic data from the Rhinegraben area re- 1983), as well as the generalized updoming of the
flect a strong structural asymmetry that is not only lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary deduced from
evident in the sedimentary fill but at all crustal lev- seismic surface and body wave studies (Panza et al.,
els. The transect clearly shows the laterally varying 1980), are also shown in the transect.
asymmetric crustal structure, which is well con- The transect also includes other geophysical data
strained east of the Rhinegraben but less so to the such as Bouguer anomalies, magnetic anomalies,
west. A strong decrease in P-wave velocity is seen heat flow, and recent crustal movements, which were
under the Rhinegraben (ULV) and, shifted to shal- taken from appropriate published maps.

Fig. 4-17. Geophysical transect through the southern Rhinegraben from Lun6ville, northeastern France, to Sigmaringen, southwest-
em Germany. For location, see AA' in Figure 4-9.
SOURCES: Ansorge et al., 1970, 1979; Bonjer et al., 1984; Brunet al., 1991; Deichmann and Ansorge, 1983; Demnati and Dohr,
1965; Dohr, 1970; Edel et al., 1975; Emter, 1976; Gajewski et al., 1987; Gajewski and ProdehL 1985, 1987; Gelbke, 1978; Glahn et
al., 1992; Granet, 1986; Kahle and Wemer, 1980; Lauer and Peterschmitt, 1970; Liebscher, 1964; Mueller et al., 1969, 1973;
MueUer and Peterschmitt, 1981; Panza et al., 1980; Reitmayr, 1975; Scheelke, 1974; Spakman, 1986; Sponheuer, 1969; Stangl,
1983; Tezkan, 1988; Villemin et al., 1986; Wenderoth, 1978; Wemer et al., 1982; Winter, 1974; Zucca, 1984.
EXPLANATIONS: 16-095, BA-010, SB-WI, SB-BB = seismic-refraction lines of 1972 and before (Edel et al., 1975); S, SZ, U, K =
seismic-refraction lines of 1984 (Gajewski et al., 1987); 6.0 = velocities in km/s; *(18) = earthquake hypocenters after Bonjer et al.
(1984, Table 1); LVZ = low-velocity zone with moderate vdocity decrease; ULVZ = LVZ with strong velocity decrease; thick bars =
steep-angle reflections of surveys before 1968; GDR/dotted bars = steep-angle reflections after Dohr (1970); M = Moho; dashed
lines = seismic-refraction boundaries; hatched lines = magnetoteUuric boundaries; vertically hatched stripe = lithosphere-asthenos-
phere boundary from surface and shear wave data (Panza et al., 1980); dotted depth ranges = zones of decreased P-wave velocity
(open circles = 1.0-2.2%, dots = less or equal to 1%) in the uppermost mantle from teleseismic tomography studies (simplified from
Fig. 4-18 after Glahn et al., 1992).
(a) Bouguer anomalies (from Werner et al., 1982). (b) Magnetic anomalies (from Eberle, 1973). (c) Heat flow (H/inel, 1983). (d)
Recent crustal movement (from DGK-Arbeitskreis, 1979). (e) Generalized cross section AA' of the lithosphere comprising seismic-
refraction, seismic-reflection, teleseismic, and magneto-telluric data.
The European Cenozoic rift system 169
170 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

4.B5.2. Near-surface rift structures flanks, both beneath the Vosges Mountains in the
west and the Black Forest in the east (Fig. 4-15),
The asymmetric sedimentary graben fill seen in shows a distinct low-velocity zone from about 8 to
cross sections (e.g., Illies, 1974b; Fig. 4-10), con- 13-15 km depth in which the velocity decreases from
tour maps of individual layers and depth maps to about 5.9-6.0 km/s to less than 5.5 km/s. A velocity
the base of the Tertiary (Boigk and SchOneich, 1970, decrease beneath the graben proper, possibly some-
1974; Doebl, 1970; Doebl and Olbrecht, 1974) and what less pronounced, is very likely, but cannot be
the crystalline basement (Edel, 1975) is well imaged derived from available seismic-refraction data alone
in the modern seismic-reflection data (Brunet al., because of high-noise problems caused by the sedi-
1992; see, e.g., Fig. 4-14). mentary fill of the graben. Therefore Edel et al.
Both seismic-reflection lines through the (1975) have simply assumed an average velocity of
Rhinegraben illustrate the structural asymmetry of 6 km/s throughout the upper crust beneath the sedi-
the Rhinegraben. In the graben and in the Saverne ments (Fig. 4-13), although the presence of consid-
area an apparent 1.5 s thickening of the upper crust erable vertical and horizontal heterogeneities in the
is noted in the reflection section (Brunet al., 1991). upper crust is quite likely. The inclusion of deep-
The surface asymmetry of the southern Rhinegraben reflection observations from within the Rhinegraben
is possibly controlled in the west by a listric master (Demnati and Dohr, 1965; Dohr, 1967, 1970) in a
fault. The main subsidence and axis of the graben, synoptic interpretation required a pronounced low-
as reflected by the thickness of the Tertiary syn-rift velocity zone under the graben proper (Mueller et
sediments, is associated with its western border fault. al., 1969, 1973) comparable to the velocity inver-
The Tertiary sediments thin towards the eastern gra- sion zones found under the flanks of the graben. The
ben margin and are dissected by conjugate normal high-resolution seismic reflection data in the Black
faults in the central parts of the graben, whereas at Forest (Ltischen et al., 1987) show essentially a non-
its eastern margin they are deformed into a gentle reflective upper crust which agrees with the strong
anticline (Brunet al., 1992). velocity inversion derived by Gajewski and Prodehl
For the profile DEKORP-ECORS-N (Fig. 4-9), (1987) from the seismic-refraction data (Fig. 4-15).
Brunet al. (1992) and Wenzel et al. (1991) discuss At a first glance, the velocity inversion seems to be
in detail the change of the polarity of the graben from much stronger than that suggested by the data of Edel
south to north. In contrast to the southern profile et al. (1975). However, when viewing the lateral
DEKORP-ECORS-S, in this northern profile the structural variations, it is noted, that the velocity
graben-bounding master fault is along the eastern inversion underneath the Black Forest gradually dis-
flank of the graben. Here the graben also subsided appears towards south where the line SB-045 inter-
asymmetrically, with the master fault in the east and sects the Black Forest line. On the basis of his three-
without significant tilt of the sedimentary fill. Qua- dimensional plot of hypocenters based on observa-
ternary and Tertiary sediments attain maximum tions of the permanent local Rhinegraben seismic
thickness in the east and thin towards the west. The network, Koch (1993b) concludes that the lateral
Tertiary graben fill reaches a maximum thickness of extent of the low-velocity zone under the Black For-
3400 m near the eastern master fault and decreases est must be limited to the Black Forest area only.
westward stepwise across two east-dipping normal This has also been recognized by Gajewski et al.
faults to about 300 m. The dip of the master fault (1987) from interpretiation of the seismic-refraction
decreases from 55* at shallow depth to 45* at 3000 data east of the Black Forest.
m depth (Brun et al., 1992). The varying structure
seen in the sediments evidently reaches into the base- 4.B5.3. Deep crust
ment.
From models based on seismic refraction investi- The depth range below 15 km can be divided into
gations for the upper crystalline crust the following two parts: the middle crust with a mean velocity of
features can be generalized: The upper crust of the 6.3-6.5 km/s and the lower crust with 6.8-7.2 km/s,
The European Cenozoic rift system 171

but these two depth ranges are not always separated Mueller et al., 1973, Edel et al., 1975, Bartelsen et
by a distinct boundary as, e.g., in the model for the al., 1982, Deichmann and Ansorge, 1983, Gajewski
Black Forest (Fig. 4-15). and Prodehl, 1985, 1987, Gajewski et al., 1987,
The apparent "thinning" of the lower crust beneath Ltischen et al., 1987), while it dips rapidly to about
the graben, possibly caused by subcrustal physico- 30 km depth immediately west of the western flank
chemical processes, may be the reason why the crust- of the Rhinegraben (Rhinegraben Research Group,
mantle boundary does not appear as a sharp discon- 1974, Meissner and Vetter, 1974, Edel et al., 1975,
tinuity giving rise to strong near-vertical and wide- Brunet al., 1991, Wenzel et al., 1991).
angle reflections. This is in contrast to the occur- The apparent "thinning" of the lower crust beneath
rence of numerous reflections originating from the the graben was also observed along both seismic-
lamellar structure of the lower crust outside the gra- reflection lines recorded through parts of the south-
ben. Nevertheless, the well-recorded refracted Pn ern Black Forest and the adjacent Dinkelberg block
phase, showing a true velocity of about 8 km/s for at the southern end of the Rhinegraben northeast of
the upper mantle underlying the lower crust of the Basel. These profiles were interpreted by Echtler et
graben, results in the clear definition of the Moho at al. (1992) together with the data of the ECORS-
about 24-25 km depth beneath the southern DEKORP-line 9S. Significant differences in thick-
Rhinegraben (Fig. 4-13; Rhinegraben Research ness of the reflective lower crust and transparent
Group, 1974). This discontinuity dips slightly to- upper crust appear to be related to a differential
wards the north (Zucca, 1984) and reaches a depth crustal evolution. A 12-14 km thick lower crust be-
of 27-28 km south of Frankfurt (Meissner and Vetter, neath the Black Forest is associated with Permo-
1974, Edel et al., 1975), corresponding to an increase Carboniferous re-equilibration of a thickened
from near 8 s TWT in the south to 8.7 s in the north Variscan orogenic crust. A thinning of the lower crust
(Brunet al., 1991, Wenzel et al., 1991). Similar to of about 5 km in the graben and in the Dinkelberg
the attitude of the master fault, the DEKORP- block (a rifted domain in a transitional position be-
ECORS reflection data reveal deep-reaching asym- tween graben and eastern shoulder) corresponds in
metries at all crustal levels. The very detailed seis- its extent to upper-crustal faults and is thus inter-
mic-reflection data clearly show that lateral differ- preted to be related to Cenozoic rifting (Echtler et
ences occur throughout the crust srof the graben as al., 1994).
well, and that these vary considerably in the same Based on the three-component data of the 1984
way as the near-surface polarity of the graben seismic-refraction survey of southwestern Germany
changes along its trace. (Gajewski et al., 1987), a detailed interpretation of
Although the data indicate a 0.5 s step-like offset the S-waves also has been carried out (Holbrook et
of the Moho in the eastern part of the graben, the al., 1987, 1988; Gajewski, 1989; Krammer, 1988).
lack of clear reflections within the lower crust does The resulting values for Poisson's ratio are: 0.25 for
not permit the delineation of a continuous fault from the uppermost crust, as low as 0.15 within the Black
the surface to the top of the mantle (Brunet al., Forest low-velocity zone, and 0.24-0.30 in the lower
1991). As the older and newer data and their inter- crust. It is particularly interesting to note that the
pretations evidently contradict each other, the struc- lamellar structure derived from the P-wave data is
tural features derived from the reflection section in n o t seen in the S-wave data. The results of petro-
Figure 4-14 have not been transferred onto the logical modeling indicate a gneissic/granitic upper
transect of Figure 4-17e, which presents an a v e r - crust (Mueller, 1977), high quartz contents in the
a g e compilation of all available seismic data. mid-crustal low-P-velocity zone, and a granulitic
Across the graben, in the east-west direction, the lower crust of laterally varying bulk composition,
crust-mantle boundary shows an asymmetric behav- from granodioritic/quartz monzodioritic to gabbroic
ior. It dips gently to the east from 24-25 km under (Holbrook et al., 1988). Under the assumption that
the graben to 26 km under the Black Forest and 28 a rather high quartz content of 50% is acceptable
km under the Swabian Jura (Ansorge et al., 1970, for the lower crust, Sandmeier and Wenzel (1990)
172 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Fig. 4-18. Teleseismic cross section showing smoothed velocity perturbations (in %) of a sediment-corrected model derived from a
3-D inversion (from Glahn et al., 1993, fig. 9a). For location, see AA' in Figure 4-9.

propose a slightly different, purely compositional conditions would definitely permit a detection of
model for alternating high- and low-velocity lower such a phase if it were present with comparable en-
crustal rock sequences to explain the complex ergy. On the other hand, Plenefisch et al. (1994) have
reflectivity for P-waves only. studied S~-phases generated from earthquakes. In
A specially designed S-wave reflection survey in contrast to seismic-refraction data, earthquakes with
the Black Forest, however, indicates high reflectivity deep foci (20-30 km depth) generate clear Sn
of the lower crust for S-waves as well (Ltischen et phasesmwith one exception: No Sn waves are gen-
al., 1990) which Liischen et al. explain by assuming erated at stations located on the eastern flank (Black
alternating anisotropic and isotropic lamellae. Forest and Dinkelberg) by earthquakes with foci
from the southwest, i.e. when the waves traverse the
4.B5.4. Upper mantle southern Rhinegraben, their S~-component is ab-
sorbed. Computation of synthetic seismograms dem-
Not only the crust, but also the lower lithosphere onstrates that fault plane orientations and sub-Moho
shows a highly anomalous behavior. A puzzling fea- velocity gradients and/or a high S-wave attenuation
ture of S-wave propagation in the uppermost mantle may be the causes for the disappearance of S~ phases.
is discussed in detail by Gajewski et al. (1990). On From reversed observations of seismic events in
some profiles east of the Rhinegraben a very clear the RhOn, at the southeastern margin of the Hessen
P~ phase is observed, while a corresponding S~ phase depression, and in the Dinkelberg area close to Basel,
cannot be correlated, although the signal-to-noise Ansorge et al. (1979) determined a true upper-mantle
The European Cenozoic rift system 173

velocity of 8.6 km/s at a depth of about 40-50 km. observations (Scheelke, 1974, Winter, 1974,
An only slightly lower velocity (8.4-8.5 km/s) is Reitmayr, 1975). Panza et al. (1980) concluded from
reported by the same authors and by Stangl (1983) surface and shear wave analysis that the lithosphere-
for the reversed line Steinbrunn-B0hmischbruck, asthenosphere boundary is domed up to about 50 km
extending from Basel to the northeast through the depth beneath the active Rhinegraben, the Rhenish
Black Forest and Swabian-Franconian Jura. This Massif and the Lower Rhine Embayment.
result is supported by high S-wave velocities ob- These earlier conclusions cannot, however, be
tained from the dispersion of Rayleigh waves supported by the results of modern interpretations
(Reichenbach and Mueller, 1974; Sprecher, 1976). of large-scale P-delay studies (Babuska et al., 1988,
These observations are in agreement with Koch's Spakman, 1986), and by recent teleseismic obser-
(1993b) 3-D hypocenter inversions of earthquake vations carried out in the southern Rhinegraben area
data, which result in generally high Pn velocities of during 1989, which extend 100 km to the west and
8.3-8.4 km/s, with the exception of the Kaiserstuhl southeast of the graben axis (Glahn et al., 1993). The
area where Koch (1993b) finds an exceptionally low new 3-D models of Glahn et al. (1993) reveal a rather
Pn velocity of 7.9 km/s. However, this depth range complicated depth structure of the lower lithosphere
has not been covered by seismic-refraction data. On (Fig. 4-18) indicating a graben related, NNE-SSW
the other hand, due to the small number of perma- oriented anomaly pattern involving the lower crust,
nent earthquake stations available in the Rhinegraben the Moho and the uppermost mantle to a depth of
area, it remains doubtful, how much a tomographic about 65-75 km. Below 70 km, and reaching to at
inversion is able to reveal of local details, and in least 140 km depth, E-W oriented structures pre-
particular to determine absolute velocities. vail. Of particular interest is a low-velocity area at
In contrast to high velocities of more than 8.4 km/ 80-120 km depth beneath the central Black Forest.
s underneath the eastern flank of the Rhinegraben, a These E-W oriented structures correlate with a re-
velocity of only 8.2 km/s was obtained along an gional gravity low o f - 6 0 mgal east of the graben
unreversed profile west of the Vosges at the same (Rousset and Bayer, pers. comm., 1993).
depth range of 40-50 km. Similar low velocities are The new teleseismic data do not confirm the pres-
found on long-range profiles through western and ence of an elevated lithosphere-asthenosphere
south-central France (Bottinga et al., 1973, Hirn et boundary at depths above 75 km; the lithosphere
al., 1973, 1975). Thus, the properties of the upper shows a complex velocity structure with small-scale
mantle appear to be highly anomalous beneath south- velocity anomalies. A low-velocity region beneath
western Germany, whereas on the other side of the the Moho is seen at the latitude where the transect
Rhinegraben in France, normal velocities are found of Figure 4-17 traverses the Rhinegraben; it is
(Ansorge et al., 1979). Such a change in uppermost- bounded by rather steeply dipping high-velocity
mantle velocities, however, is not indicated in re- zones located under the Vosges and Black Forest.
cent teleseismic data (Glahn et al., 1993) which cover Though of considerable extent, this low-velocity
the central Rhinegraben area and its flanks to about zone, however, can only be interpreted as a local-
100 km away from the graben axis. ized lower crust - upper mantle feature. It cannot be
From an early study of travel time residuals in a regarded as a general asthenospheric upwarping,
limited area, Wenderoth (1978) deduced that because further south, within the graben as well as
asthenospheric material was injected into the litho- underneath its flanks, this low-velocity zone fades
sphere beneath the graben. On the basis of the data out. The region of high sub-Moho velocities under-
available today, his findings could be interpreted as neath the eastern graben flank correlates with the
a crustal effect; however, they seemed to agree with high upper-mantle velocities observed by Ansorge
magnetotelluric and geomagnetic depth sounding et al. (1979) at 40-50 km depth.
174 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

4.C The two northern branches: The Rhenish undergoing uplift, a movement which seems still to
Massif/lower Rhine embayment and the be active today (Illies and Fuchs, 1983; Illies et al.,
Hessen depression 1979).
Within the scope of a priority program of the
4.C3. Geologic information German Research Society (DFG), "Vertical move-
ments and their causes as exemplified in the case of
4.C3.1. Introduction
the Rhenish Massif," the Rhenish Massif was inves-
At its northern end, in the area of Frankfurt, the tigated in detail by a broad-scale geoscientific ef-
Central European rift branches into two sections, fort (Fuchs et al., 1983). The program comprised
forming a triple junction (Ziegler, 1992). One branch geological, geophysical, geodetic, petrological,
leads to the north along the eastern edge of the geochemical, geomorphological, and age-dating sur-
Rhenish Massif through the Hesssen depression and veys. Giese (1983) and Giese et al. (1983) have com-
the Leine graben near G0ttingen and then disappears piled seismic and magnetotelluric cross sections into
under the sediments of the North German Plain. The an interpretive crustal section and discuss an evolu-
other branch leads northwestward, traversing the tionary model of the Hercynian crust in the
Rhenish Massif where it is more or less hidden along Rhenohercynian and Saxothuringian domain of west-
the Rhine river. It appears again as an active rifting em Europe.
feature in the Lower Rhine embayment (Figs. 4-1, The "European Geotraverse" (EGT), sponsored
4-2; 4-9, 4-19). by the European Science Foundation as a large-scale
The development of the Lower Rhine embayment international multidisciplinary research program, tra-
as a segment of the European Cenozoic rift system versed central Europe on a strip from Genova to Kiel
is best demonstrated by the paleogeographic maps (Blundell et al., 1992, Freeman and Mueller, 1992),
of Ziegler (1990, 1992). While rifting in the Hessen running more or less through the Hessen depression.
depression is seen since Eocene time, clear evidence The research enabled experiments on a lithospheric
of taphrogenesis in the Lower Rhine embayment scale, including petrological xenolith investigations
appears there-only since Oligocene time. The seis- and detailed seismic and magnetotelluric profiling
micity maps of Ahorner (1983, see, e.g., Fig. 4-23) (see, e.g., Figs. 4-9, 4-24 and 4-26).
show that recent seismic activity is almost com-
pletely absent in the Hessen depression, but is very 4.C3.2. Sedimentary record
well pronounced on a broad strip from the
The Rhenohercynian zone today is largely com-
Rhinegraben through the Rhenish Massif into the
posed of epicontinental and hemipelagic sediments
Lower Rhine embayment.
and volcanics. The bulk of the clastic sequences was
The Rhenish Massif is a consolidated block be-
derived from the Caledonian mountain chains of the
tween the Rhinegraben in the south, the Lower Rhine
British Isles and Scandinavia (Caledonian
embayment in the northwest, and the Hessen depres-
"molasse"). These sequences, however, only repre-
sion in the east (Fig. 4-19). It is part of the Hercynian
sent the marginal, "miogeosynclinal" part of what
mountain system of western Europe, and, as such, is
was originally a much larger basin, probably of oce-
part of the Rhenohercynian zone (Murawski et al.,
anic width (Franke, 1986). Radiolarian cherts, flysch
1983; Rutten, 1969; Martin and Eder, 1983). Ter-
greywackes, and some MORB-type spilites, con-
tiary to Quaternary volcanism is concentrated in the
tained in nappes in the southern parts of the
Westerwald, Eifel, and Siebengebirge and, as men-
Rhenohercynian zone, possibly represent obducted
tioned above, in the Hessen depression to the east.
remnants of the Rhenohercynian ocean basin.
Since Mesozoic times the Rhenish Massif has been

Fig. 4-19. Rhenish Massif between the Rhinegraben in the south and the Lower Rhine embayment in the northwest (from Illies and
Fuchs, 1983, fig. 1).
The European Cenozoic rift system 175
176 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

Today, the Rhenish Massif is wedged between the Lower Rhine embayment (named Ruhr Valley gra-
Rhinegraben and the Lower Rhine embayment (Fig. ben by Ziegler). Evidence for graben-related activ-
4-19). It is an uplifted plateau in which a dense ity only starts in Oligocene time. According to
drainage pattern has engraved several generations Teichmtiller (1974), the western margin was the more
of erosional land forms. Following Illies et al. active one. Late middle Oligocene northwestward
(1979), it is composed of a thick series of slates, rift propagation into the Netherlands is evident from
graywackes, quartzites, limestones, and locally the stratigraphic record of the Lower Rhine
volcanics of mainly Devonian and Lower Carbonif- embayment (Zagwijn, 1989, Ziegler, 1992). During
erous age. The series, generally some 4,000 m, but the Oligocene, the area of the Rhenish Massif and
locally up to 10,000 m thick, was primarily the infill Ardennes corresponded to a low-lying peneplain
of the Rhenohercynian geosyncline. The strata were onto which marine transgressions encroached along
strongly folded and slightly metamorphosed during tectonic depressions (Ziegler, 1992), while marine
the Hercynian orogeny between 330 and 300 Ma connections between the Northwest German basin
(Ahrendt et al., 1978), forming a part of the Variscan and the Alpine foreland basin occurred via the
mountain range. The first phase of uplift and ero- Rhine-Leine graben where they remained intermit-
sion occurred during Upper Carboniferous and tently open until the early late Oligocene. The Lower
Lower Permian. Subsequently, Upper Permian and Rhine embayment continued to subside during Mi-
Mesozoic seas marginally flooded the Massif while ocene to Recent times. Its strike is parallel to the
its central part remained a fiat, emerged plateau. present northwest-directed maximum horizontal
Tertiary marine transgression temporarily reached compressional stress field (Illies and Greiner, 1978;
peripheral sections of the platform, but most of the Ahorner et al., 1983, Ziegler, 1992; Eck et al., 1993).
area was covered by fluvial gravel accumulation The graben feathers out to the northwest and loses
(Quitzow, 1959; L0hnertz, 1978). Widespread domi- its identity before reaching the North Sea (Ziegler,
nantly basaltic eruptions pierced the Massif during 1992; Zijerveld et al., 1992).
Eocene, Oligocene and Miocene (Cantarel and
Lippolt, 1977). Since the Pliocene, the ancestral 4.C3.3. Igneous activity
Rhine and Mosel rivers traversed the platform and
their fluvial terraces are preserved today up to 300 The Rhenish Massif contains an enormous abun-
m above present river levels. From the Upper dance of volcanic rocks, with ages reaching from
Pliocene on, the whole unit was subjected to a re- the Middle Cretaceous to the youngest Pleistocene.
gional uplift at varying rates. The uplifted plateau K-Ar and ~4C dating are the main tools for establish-
extends over an area of about 100 x 200 km and in- ing their distribution in time (Fig 4-20; Lippolt,
cludes the Rhenish Massif and some smaller mar- 1983). The oldest post-Permian volcanic rock oc-
ginal areas overlain by outliers of the peripheral Tri- curs in the Wittlich basin and has an age of more
assic sedimentary cover. The Rhine and Mosel riv- than 100 Ma. The main volcanic activity of the
ers and a dense pattern of their tributaries have cut Rhenish Massif started in the Hocheifel (West Eifel)
deep antecedent river valleys during the uplift. Tim- area during the Upper Eocene, where it continued
ing and rates of uplift are inferred from a sequence until the Middle Miocene. Volcanic activity in the
of well dated river terraces (Bibus, 1983; Semmel, Siebengebirge, Westerwald and RhOn occurred dur-
1983). ing the Upper Oligocene and Lower Miocene. Dur-
In contrast to the deeply subsided Rhinegraben, ing the Middle Miocene, the Vogelsberg and the
the Lower Rhine embayment, the physically visible northern Hessen volcanic province were active
continuation of the European Central rift to the north- (Lippolt, 1983).
west, is characterized by a smaller thickness of Ter- The volcanism of the Rhenish Massif is associ-
tiary sediments (Teichmtiller, 1974). The paleogeo- ated with tectonic events related to the formation of
graphic maps by Ziegler (1990, 1992) demonstrate the Rhine rift system. During the Tertiary, the vol-
the history and sedimentary development of the canic activity shifted from west (Hocheifel, 46 Ma)
The European Cenozoic rift system 177

Fig. 4-20. Geographic distribution of volcanic centers in the Rhenish Massif and its surroundings (from Lippolt, 1983, fig. 1).

to east (northern Hessen depression, 20 Ma). The younger section by its relation to the volcanic rocks,
youngest Quaternary volcanism is restricted to two while for the older part one has to rely exclusively
fields west of the Rhine (Seck, 1983). on paleomagnetic observations (Lippolt, 1983).
Two late Quaternary volcanic fields have devel- The Eifel volcanic fields, about 0.7 Ma old,
oped in the West Eifel, covering an area of some formed roughly synchronously with the main Qua-
500--600 km 2 with about 220 eruptive centers, and, ternary phase of uplift. The fields (West Eifel and
about 25 km to the east, the smaller East Eifel East Eifel) are 50 and 30 km long, elongated in NW-
(Laacher See area) with some 70 volcanic centers SE direction, and contain about 240 and 90 volca-
distributed over an area of about 400 km 2 (lilies et noes, respectively. The larger West Eifel differs from
al., 1979). K-Ar dates and paleomagnetic polarity the East Eifel field by more mafic and silica-under-
narrow its time of activity to the interval between saturated magmas, greater abundance and larger size
0.7 Ma and about 10,000 a. The well-established of peridotite xenoliths, and near-absence of highly
sequence of Rhine terraces can be dated in the differentiated magmas (Schmincke et al., 1983).
178 C. Prodehl, S. Mueller, and V. Haak

The magmas of the Quaternary volcanic fields in Depleted mantle compositions are observed in
the western central part of the Rhenish Massif ap- peridotite xenoliths. The abundant depleted spinel-
pear to have been derived from metasomatically peridotite xenoliths sampled from Tertiary and Qua-
modified mantle sources (Schmincke et al., 1983). ternary alkali basalts in the Eifel, Westerwald, and
NW-SE-oriented pathways may have been largely Hessen depression areas contain on average about
controlled by the present tensional lithospheric stress 70% olivine. These lherzolites and harzburgites can-
field, local N-S and NE-SW orientations possibly not explain the chemical composition of nepheline-
being influenced by pre-existing zones of structural bearing basalts except by assuming very low degrees
weakness in the crust. Volcanic activity coincides of partial melting of the former rocks (less than 1%).
broadly with increasing rates of uplift during Qua- Peridotite xenoliths are mainly equilibrated in the
ternary times, but data are insufficient to correlate range from 900* to 1150~ related to a depth range
distinct volcanic and tectonic phases. Quaternary of 60-80 km. Coarse grained xenoliths without re-
magmas may have been generated in a low-velocity