Continental rifting involves a poorly understood sequence of lithospheric stretching, volcanism, and mantle flow that evolves to seafloor spreading. We present new insight from inversion of seismic traveltimes and waveforms beneath Arabia and surroundings. Low velocities occur beneath the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, consistent with active spreading. However, hot material extends not below the northern Red Sea, but is offset eastward beneath Arabia, showing mantle flow from the Afar hotspot. The location of this channel beneath volcanic rocks erupted since rifting began 30 million years ago indicates that flow moves with Arabia. We propose that the absence of seafloor spreading in the northern Red Sea reflects the offset flow. This geometry may evolve to spreading in the Northern Red Sea, rifting of Arabia, or both. This situation has aspects of both active and passive rifting, showing that both can occur before coalescing to seafloor spreading.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)