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Saudi Arabian seismic-refraction profile: A traveltime interpretation of crustal and upper mantle structure

January 1, 1985

The crustal and upper mantle compressional-wave velocity structure across the southwestern Arabian Shield has been investigated by a 1000-km-long seismic refraction profile. The profile begins in Mesozoic cover rocks near Riyadh on the Arabian Platform, trends southwesterly across three major Precambrian tectonic provinces, traverses Cenozoic rocks of the coastal plain near Jizan, and terminates at the outer edge of the Farasan Bank in the southern Red Sea. More than 500 surveyed recording sites were occupied, and six shot points were used, including one in the Red Sea.

Two-dimensional ray-tracing techniques, used to analyze amplitude-normalized record sections indicate that the Arabian Shield is composed, to first order, of two layers, each about 20 km thick, with average velocities of about 6.3 km/s and 7.0 km/s, respectively. West of the Shield-Red Sea margin, the crust thins to a total thickness of less than 20 km, beyond which the Red Sea shelf and coastal plain are interpreted to be underlain by oceanic crust.

A major crustal inhomogeneity at the northeast end of the profile probably represents the suture zone between two crustal blocks of different composition. Elsewhere along the profile, several high-velocity anomalies in the upper crust correlate with mapped gneiss domes, the most prominent of which is the Khamis Mushayt gneiss. Based on their velocities, these domes may constitute areas where lower crustal rocks have been raised some 20 km. Two intracrustal reflectors in the center of the Shield at 13 km depth probably represent the tops of mafic intrusives.

The Mohorovičić discontinuity beneath the Shield varies from a depth of 43 km and mantle velocity of 8.2 km/s in the northeast to a depth of 38 km and mantle velocity of 8.0 km/s depth in the southwest near the Shield-Red Sea transition. Two velocity discontinuities occur in the upper mantle, at 59 and 70 km depth.

The crustal and upper mantle velocity structure of the Arabian Shield is interpreted as revealing a complex crust derived from the suturing of island arcs in the Precarnbrian. The Shield is currently flanked by the active spreading boundary in the Red Sea.

Publication Year 1985
Title Saudi Arabian seismic-refraction profile: A traveltime interpretation of crustal and upper mantle structure
DOI 10.1016/0040-1951(85)90287-2
Authors Walter D. Mooney, M. E. Gettings, H. R. Blank, J. H. Healy
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonophysics
Index ID 70013057
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center