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Keywords:

  • eastern Mediterranean;
  • inversion;
  • lithospheric structure;
  • phase velocity;
  • surface waves

SUMMARY

On a SW–NE profile from the Libyan coast towards central Turkey phase velocity curves of the fundamental Rayleigh mode were measured using a two-station method. The inversion of phase velocity curves yields 1-D models of shear wave velocity down to approximately 200 km depths that may be interpreted as estimates of average models between neighbouring stations on the profile. Strong lateral variations in the shear wave velocity structure are imaged along the profile.

The subducted oceanic African mantle lithosphere is indicated in 1-D models for the region around Crete by significantly enlarged shear wave velocities. It is also imaged by an average model of the structure between stations on Crete and Santorini. On a path crossing the Libyan Sea south of Crete the resulting model is slower than a model expected for 110 Myr old oceanic lithosphere. The passive African margin is thus assumed to extend northwards beneath the Libyan Sea. Anomalous low shear wave velocities are found for the uppermost mantle beneath central Turkey down to a depth of approximately 130 km.

Using two stations on Crete the average depth of the oceanic Moho within the subducting slab is estimated to be at approximately 50 km beneath Crete. For this arc-parallel path, an enlarged standard deviation of the measured phase velocities of approximately 0.2 km s−1 between 10 and 30 mHz is observed that is probably caused by strong lateral heterogeneity related to the subducting slab. In addition, in this frequency range an anomalous propagation of the fundamental Rayleigh mode is detected that is indicated by measured phase velocities that are approximately one standard deviation faster than phase velocities expected from a great-circle approximation. An average shear wave velocity of approximately 3.5 km s−1 is observed above the oceanic Moho.

In order to explain the recent lithospheric structure of the Hellenic subduction zone a tectonic model is assumed for the NE–SW striking profile considered. It is based on the calculated 1-D models, tectonic reconstructions and on a model derived from the metamorphic history of rocks exposed on Crete. The suggested model summarizes the tectonic development at a lithospheric scale starting in the Late Cretaceous. Accretion of crustal material of two microcontinents to Eurasia is assumed, while continuous subduction of the oceanic lithosphere of different ocean basins and possibly of the mantle lithosphere of the microcontinents resulted in a single slab. The length of the oceanic lithosphere that was subducted south of Crete is estimated to be not greater than approximately 550 km.