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The August 2002 earthquake sequence in north Afar: Insights into the neotectonics of the Danakil microplate

The August 2002 earthquake sequence in north Afar: Insights into the neotectonics of the Danakil microplate
The August 2002 earthquake sequence in north Afar: Insights into the neotectonics of the Danakil microplate
In August 2002, there was high seismic activity in Afar concentrated at the plateau margin of the northern Ethiopian rift east of Mekele, near the western part of the Danakil microplate. The spatial and temporal distributions of this seismic activity over four weeks indicate the NNW propagation of the Gulf of Aden rift across the Afar Depression towards the western Ethiopian plateau. Fault plane solutions for six larger earthquakes from the August 2002 sequence are estimated from moment tensor inversion of local broadband waveform data. The results show only normal faulting on NNW trending and NE dipping faults, which agree with tectonics of the area and distribution of aftershocks. No strike-slip component is observed in any of our fault plane solutions or those of other workers including Harvard CMT solutions in the region. Such motion would be indicative of oblique-slip deformation between the Nubian plate and the Danakil microplate consistent with counter-clockwise rotation of the microplate. Hypocentral depths of well-constrained events are 5–7 km, which is the approximate elastic plate thickness in the Main Ethiopian rift, possibly indicating the depth to the brittle–ductile transition zone in this part of the Afar Depression. The shallowness of the depth estimates agree with the macroseismic reports available from a wide area in northern Ethiopia. Potential future shallow crustal deformation may cause significant loss of human life and damage to property in the densely populated highland region around Mekele unless measures are taken in improving building standards. The b-value for this sequence is estimated to be 0.66 using a least squares fit, while it is 0.67 ± 0.16 from a maximum-likelihood approach. This estimated b-value is low or the frequency of occurrence of relatively larger magnitude events is high indicating that it is a highly stressed region as evidenced by the recent increase of the seismicity in the area.
afar, danakil microplate, fault-plane solutions, seismicity, b-value
1464-343X
70-79
Ayele, A.
2a0d90e9-a4be-4484-9301-5c4df46f9407
Stuart, G.
c7791a71-27ef-4751-ba4c-41dd809027a5
Bastow, I.
f30b7d4e-1413-4521-8409-71f56e74ec4a
Keir, D.
5616f81f-bf1b-4678-a167-3160b5647c65
Ayele, A.
2a0d90e9-a4be-4484-9301-5c4df46f9407
Stuart, G.
c7791a71-27ef-4751-ba4c-41dd809027a5
Bastow, I.
f30b7d4e-1413-4521-8409-71f56e74ec4a
Keir, D.
5616f81f-bf1b-4678-a167-3160b5647c65

Ayele, A., Stuart, G., Bastow, I. and Keir, D. (2007) The August 2002 earthquake sequence in north Afar: Insights into the neotectonics of the Danakil microplate. Journal of African Earth Sciences, 48 (2-3), 70-79. (doi:10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2006.06.011).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In August 2002, there was high seismic activity in Afar concentrated at the plateau margin of the northern Ethiopian rift east of Mekele, near the western part of the Danakil microplate. The spatial and temporal distributions of this seismic activity over four weeks indicate the NNW propagation of the Gulf of Aden rift across the Afar Depression towards the western Ethiopian plateau. Fault plane solutions for six larger earthquakes from the August 2002 sequence are estimated from moment tensor inversion of local broadband waveform data. The results show only normal faulting on NNW trending and NE dipping faults, which agree with tectonics of the area and distribution of aftershocks. No strike-slip component is observed in any of our fault plane solutions or those of other workers including Harvard CMT solutions in the region. Such motion would be indicative of oblique-slip deformation between the Nubian plate and the Danakil microplate consistent with counter-clockwise rotation of the microplate. Hypocentral depths of well-constrained events are 5–7 km, which is the approximate elastic plate thickness in the Main Ethiopian rift, possibly indicating the depth to the brittle–ductile transition zone in this part of the Afar Depression. The shallowness of the depth estimates agree with the macroseismic reports available from a wide area in northern Ethiopia. Potential future shallow crustal deformation may cause significant loss of human life and damage to property in the densely populated highland region around Mekele unless measures are taken in improving building standards. The b-value for this sequence is estimated to be 0.66 using a least squares fit, while it is 0.67 ± 0.16 from a maximum-likelihood approach. This estimated b-value is low or the frequency of occurrence of relatively larger magnitude events is high indicating that it is a highly stressed region as evidenced by the recent increase of the seismicity in the area.

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More information

Published date: June 2007
Keywords: afar, danakil microplate, fault-plane solutions, seismicity, b-value

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 175147
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/175147
ISSN: 1464-343X
PURE UUID: 506f4c38-dde3-49a5-ba43-573a54989126
ORCID for D. Keir: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8787-8446

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Feb 2011 17:13
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:31

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