Abstract

We present a seismic model of the upper 400 km of the mantle beneath Africa and surrounding regions. This model is constructed by inverse modeling of fundamental mode Rayleigh wave phase velocities (40–200 s) for about 8000 propagation paths. Among the most pronounced anomalies are high shear velocity structures (as much as 6% higher than in the Preliminary Reference Earth model) beneath the West African, Congo, and Kalahari cratons that extend to about 250 km depth. These structures have near-vertical margins across which the shear velocity changes by as much as 6% over 500 km distance. Anomalous low shear velocities (3%–4% lower than in the Preliminary Reference Earth Model) structures are observed beneath the East African, Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden rifts, and beneath the northwestern Indian Ocean. These structures extend to a depth of at least 250 km. Our model cannot be reconciled with models that invoke a large number of plumes that have impinged on the base of the lithosphere, nor does our seismic model indicate that high-temperature, low-density material beneath the lithosphere is responsible for the uplift of southern Africa.

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