Tectonic link between the Neoproterozoic dextral shear fabrics and Cenozoic extension structures of the Mekelle basin, Northern Ethiopia

Abstract

The Mekelle basin (area ~ 5500 km2) is located at the immediate western margin of the Afar Depression, which has a history of collision, subsidence, uplift, magmatism and now rifting. The evolution of such small to medium size basins as the Mekelle in a complicated geodynamic set-up is a subject of debate, because several different mechanisms of basin formation could apply. To address the possible basin evolution scenarios, we combine structural and dynamic analyses of northern Ethiopia, with strong emphasis on the basin and basin bounding basement rocks. The northern basin bounding block is uplifted by about 1500 m compared with the western and southwestern basin-bounding blocks. In the basin, superposition of large-scale orthogonal brittle shear fabrics and the development of young, parallel to subparallel extensional fractures and domino faulting have produced a total of ~ 2200 m vertical displacement. These observations, coupled with the absence of gradual roll-down of the internal basin (i.e., absence of bending/folding of an elastic beam supported at both ends), imply that Mekelle basin is not an IntraCONtinental Sags (ICONS) or plate interior basin, as previously described, but is instead a multi-tectonic triggered basin. Integrated satellite images using ground-controlled measurements and deep borehole data were used to decipher the entire evolution of the basin starting from the late-collisional deformation through the regional up-doming to the sills/dikes injection and basin formation.

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Arkin et al. (1971), Beyth (1972), Bussert and Schrank (2007

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Source of borehole data: Tigray water resources development bureau

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Acknowledgements

The authors are very grateful to the MU-IUC project and Czech Geological Survey for partially supporting the fieldwork. Tigray water resource development bureau is highly appreciated for providing borehole data. We appreciate the assistance of the staff of the Laboratory for Applied Geology and Hydrogeology, Ghent University (Belgium). The manuscript benefited greatly from thoughtful reviews by anonymous referees.

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Correspondence to Miruts Hagos.

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Hagos, M., Gebreyohannes, T., Amare, K. et al. Tectonic link between the Neoproterozoic dextral shear fabrics and Cenozoic extension structures of the Mekelle basin, Northern Ethiopia. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 109, 1957–1974 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-020-01882-0

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Keywords

  • Mekelle basin
  • Afar depression
  • Subsidence
  • Superposition
  • Domino faulting
  • IntraCONtinental sags