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Seafloor spreading event in western Gulf of Aden during the November 2010 - March 2011 period captured by regional seismic networks: Evidence for diking events and interactions with a nascent transform zone

Seafloor spreading event in western Gulf of Aden during the November 2010 - March 2011 period captured by regional seismic networks: Evidence for diking events and interactions with a nascent transform zone
Seafloor spreading event in western Gulf of Aden during the November 2010 - March 2011 period captured by regional seismic networks: Evidence for diking events and interactions with a nascent transform zone
In November 2010, intense seismic activity including 29 events with a magnitude above 5.0, started in the western part of the Gulf of Aden, where the structure of the oceanic spreading ridge is characterized by a series of N115°-trending slow-spreading segments set within an EW-trending rift. Using signals recorded by permanent and temporary networks in Djibouti and Yemen, we located 1122 earthquakes, with a magnitude ranging from 2.1 to 5.6 from 01 November 2010 to 31 March 2011. By looking in detail at the space-time distribution of the overall seismicity, and both the frequency and the moment tensor of large earthquakes, we reexamine the chronology of this episode. In addition we also interpret the origin of the activity using high-resolution bathymetric data, as well as from observations of sea-floor cable damage caused by high temperatures and lava flows. The analysis allows us to identify distinct active areas. Firstly, we interpret that this episode is mainly related to a diking event along a specific ridge segment, located at E044°. In light of previous diking episodes in nearby subaerial rift segments, for which field constraints and both seismic and geodetic data exist, we interpret the space-time evolution of the seismicity of the first few days. Migration of earthquakes suggests initial magma ascent below the segment center. This is followed by a southeastward dike propagation below the rift immediately followed by a northwestward dike propagation below the rift ending below the northern ridge wall. The cumulative seismic moment associated with this sequence reaches 9.1 × 1017 Nm, and taking into account a very low seismic versus geodetic moment, we estimate an horizontal opening of ?0.58 to 2.9 m. The seismic activity that followed occurred through several bursts of earthquakes aligned along the segment axis, which are interpreted as short dike intrusions implying fast replenishment of the crustal magma reservoir feeding the dikes. Over the whole period, the opening is estimated to ?1.76-8.8 m across the segment. A striking feature of this episode is that the seismicity remained confined within one individual segment, whereas the adjacent en-echelon segments were totally quiescent, suggesting that the magma supply system of one segment is disconnected from those of the neighboring segments. Second, we identify activity induced by the first intrusion with epicenters aligned along a N035°E-trending, ?30 km long at the northwestern end of the active opening segment. This group encompasses more than 7 earthquakes with magnitude larger than 5.0, and with strike-slip focal mechanisms consistent with the faults identified in the bathymetry and the structural pattern of the area. We propose that a transform fault is currently in formation which indicates an early stage of the ridge segmentation, at the locus of the trend change of the spreading ridge, which also corresponds to the boundary between a clear oceanic lithosphere and the zone of transform between continental and oceanic crust.
Dynamics, seismotectonics, Seismicity and tectonics, Earthquake source observations, Mid-ocean ridge processes, Transform faults, Submarine tectonics and volcanism
0956-540X
1244-1266
Ahmed, A.
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Doubre, C.
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Leroy, S.
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Mohamed, K.
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Keir, D.
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Ahmadine, A.
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Perrot, J.
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Audin, L.
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Vergne, J.
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Nercessian, A.
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Jacques, E.
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Khanbari, K.
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Sholan, J.
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Rolandone, F.
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Alganad, I.
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Ahmed, A.
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Doubre, C.
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Leroy, S.
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Mohamed, K.
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Keir, D.
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Ahmadine, A.
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Perrot, J.
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Audin, L.
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Vergne, J.
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Nercessian, A.
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Jacques, E.
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Khanbari, K.
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Sholan, J.
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Rolandone, F.
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Alganad, I.
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Ahmed, A., Doubre, C., Leroy, S., Mohamed, K., Keir, D., Ahmadine, A., Perrot, J., Audin, L., Vergne, J., Nercessian, A., Jacques, E., Khanbari, K., Sholan, J., Rolandone, F. and Alganad, I. (2016) Seafloor spreading event in western Gulf of Aden during the November 2010 - March 2011 period captured by regional seismic networks: Evidence for diking events and interactions with a nascent transform zone. Geophysical Journal International, 205 (2), 1244-1266. (doi:10.1093/gji/ggw068).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In November 2010, intense seismic activity including 29 events with a magnitude above 5.0, started in the western part of the Gulf of Aden, where the structure of the oceanic spreading ridge is characterized by a series of N115°-trending slow-spreading segments set within an EW-trending rift. Using signals recorded by permanent and temporary networks in Djibouti and Yemen, we located 1122 earthquakes, with a magnitude ranging from 2.1 to 5.6 from 01 November 2010 to 31 March 2011. By looking in detail at the space-time distribution of the overall seismicity, and both the frequency and the moment tensor of large earthquakes, we reexamine the chronology of this episode. In addition we also interpret the origin of the activity using high-resolution bathymetric data, as well as from observations of sea-floor cable damage caused by high temperatures and lava flows. The analysis allows us to identify distinct active areas. Firstly, we interpret that this episode is mainly related to a diking event along a specific ridge segment, located at E044°. In light of previous diking episodes in nearby subaerial rift segments, for which field constraints and both seismic and geodetic data exist, we interpret the space-time evolution of the seismicity of the first few days. Migration of earthquakes suggests initial magma ascent below the segment center. This is followed by a southeastward dike propagation below the rift immediately followed by a northwestward dike propagation below the rift ending below the northern ridge wall. The cumulative seismic moment associated with this sequence reaches 9.1 × 1017 Nm, and taking into account a very low seismic versus geodetic moment, we estimate an horizontal opening of ?0.58 to 2.9 m. The seismic activity that followed occurred through several bursts of earthquakes aligned along the segment axis, which are interpreted as short dike intrusions implying fast replenishment of the crustal magma reservoir feeding the dikes. Over the whole period, the opening is estimated to ?1.76-8.8 m across the segment. A striking feature of this episode is that the seismicity remained confined within one individual segment, whereas the adjacent en-echelon segments were totally quiescent, suggesting that the magma supply system of one segment is disconnected from those of the neighboring segments. Second, we identify activity induced by the first intrusion with epicenters aligned along a N035°E-trending, ?30 km long at the northwestern end of the active opening segment. This group encompasses more than 7 earthquakes with magnitude larger than 5.0, and with strike-slip focal mechanisms consistent with the faults identified in the bathymetry and the structural pattern of the area. We propose that a transform fault is currently in formation which indicates an early stage of the ridge segmentation, at the locus of the trend change of the spreading ridge, which also corresponds to the boundary between a clear oceanic lithosphere and the zone of transform between continental and oceanic crust.

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e-pub ahead of print date: 1 February 2016
Published date: May 2016
Keywords: Dynamics, seismotectonics, Seismicity and tectonics, Earthquake source observations, Mid-ocean ridge processes, Transform faults, Submarine tectonics and volcanism
Organisations: Geology & Geophysics

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 388539
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/388539
ISSN: 0956-540X
PURE UUID: 23d1fc50-d4f1-45b6-b158-a5594473695f
ORCID for D. Keir: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8787-8446

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Date deposited: 29 Feb 2016 09:47
Last modified: 07 Aug 2019 00:36

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Contributors

Author: A. Ahmed
Author: C. Doubre
Author: S. Leroy
Author: K. Mohamed
Author: D. Keir ORCID iD
Author: A. Ahmadine
Author: J. Perrot
Author: L. Audin
Author: J. Vergne
Author: A. Nercessian
Author: E. Jacques
Author: K. Khanbari
Author: J. Sholan
Author: F. Rolandone
Author: I. Alganad

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