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Characteristics of the Bab Al Mandab-Northern Afar Area of the Southern Red Sea

ABOUZAKHM, A. G., Consultant, Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt, R. B. ALLEN, Earth Science and Resources Institute, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, and A. H. SIKANDER, The World Bank, Washington, DC

The southern Red Sea and adjacent Afar area represent an enigmatic portion of the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden basin system. Although the topographic rift shoulders of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden can be traced through this elbow, and appear to suggest that a similar width for the zone of extension is maintained across the region, the character of the floor of the rift zone changes.

The distinctive character of the southern Red Sea-Afar area results in part from a topographically elevated region, possibly associated with the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden-East African rift triple junction. In addition, however, seismic data from offshore Ethiopia suggests that the distinctive character is due a complex pattern of rifting. The central axial trough of the Red Sea decreases in depth to the south toward the strait of Bab al Mandab, suggesting that rifting is dying out southward. Farther to the west at the same latitude, a major but narrow half-graben can be seen on seismic in the Gulf of Zula, bounded to the east by a large west-dipping normal fault. This structure continues south into the Danakil Depression of the Afar area. Between these two en echelon rift trends, the Danak l Alps form a long-lived high. Seismic data from the southern Red Sea of Ethiopia show southward thinning and pinch-out of the Miocene syn-rift evaporite sequence onto the northern Danakil block, and only limited extension affecting the rocks of the Danakil block. Thus, it appears that the Danakil block has largely escaped Red Sea extension and subsidence. Instead, it forms a large unextended terrain located between overlapping en echelon rift trends, and may represent an accommodation zone structure associated with offset in the rift axis of the southern Red Sea.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91007© 1991 AAPG International Conference, London, England, September 29-October 2, 1991 (2009)