Lithospheric boundaries and upper mantle structure beneath Southern Africa imaged by P and S Wave Velocity Models

A. L. White-Gaynor*, A. A. Nyblade, R. Durrheim, R. Raveloson, M. van der Meijde, I. Fadel, H. Paulssen, M. Kwadiba, O. Ntibinyane, N. Titus, M. Sitali

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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We report new P and S wave velocity models of the upper mantle beneath southern Africa using data recorded on seismic stations spanning the entire subcontinent. Beneath most of the Damara Belt, including the Okavango Rift, our models show lower than average velocities (−0.8% Vp; −1.2% Vs) with an abrupt increase in velocities along the terrane's southern margin. We attribute the lower than average velocities to thinner lithosphere (~130 km thick) compared to thicker lithosphere (~200 km thick) immediately to the south under the Kalahari Craton. Beneath the Etendeka Flood Basalt Province, higher than average velocities (0.25% Vp; 0.75% Vs) indicate thicker and/or compositionally distinct lithosphere compared to other parts of the Damara Belt. In the Rehoboth Province, higher than average velocities (0.3% Vp; 0.5% Vs) suggest the presence of a microcraton, as do higher than average velocities (1.0% Vp; 1.5% Vs) under the Southern Irumide Belt. Lower than average velocities (−0.4% Vp; −0.7% Vs) beneath the Bushveld Complex and parts of the Mgondi and Okwa terranes are consistent with previous studies, which attributed them to compositionally modified lithosphere resulting from Precambrian magmatic events. There is little evidence for thermally modified upper mantle beneath any of these terranes which could provide a source of uplift for the Southern African Plateau. In contrast, beneath parts of the Irumide Belt in southern and central Zambia and the Mozambique Belt in central Mozambique, deep-seated low velocity anomalies (−0.7% Vp; −0.8% Vs) can be attributed to upper mantle extensions of the African superplume structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GC008925
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number10
Early online date13 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • lithospheric structure
  • seismic tomography
  • southern Africa plateau
  • upper mantle
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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