Articles | Volume 3, issue 2
Research article
21 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 21 Aug 2012

Seismicity from February 2006 to September 2007 at the Rwenzori Mountains, East African Rift: earthquake distribution, magnitudes and source mechanisms

M. Lindenfeld, G. Rümpker, A. Batte, and A. Schumann

Abstract. We have analysed the microseismic activity within the Rwenzori Mountains area in the western branch of the East African Rift. Seismogram recordings from a temporary array of up to 27 stations reveal approximately 800 events per month with local magnitudes ranging from –0.5 to 5.1. The earthquake distribution is highly heterogeneous. The majority of located events lie within faults zones to the east and west of the Rwenzoris with the highest seismic activity observed in the northeastern area, where the mountains are in contact with the rift shoulders. The hypocentral depth distribution exhibits a pronounced peak of seismic energy release at 15 km depth. The maximum extent of seismicity ranges from 20 to 32 km and correlates well with Moho depths that were derived from teleseismic receiver functions. We observe two general features: (i) beneath the rift shoulders, seismicity extends from the surface down to ca. 30 km depth; (ii) beneath the rift valley, seismicity is confined to depths greater than 10 km. From the observations there is no indication for a crustal root beneath the Rwenzori Mountains. The magnitude frequency distribution reveals a b-value of 1.1, which is consistent with the hypothesis that part of the seismicity is caused by magmatic processes within the crust. Fault plane solutions of 304 events were derived from P-polarities and SV/P amplitude ratios. More than 70 % of the source mechanisms exhibit pure or predominantly normal faulting. T-axis trends are highly uniform and oriented WNW–ESE, which is perpendicular to the rift axis and in good agreement with kinematic rift models. At the northernmost part of the region we observe a rotation of the T-axis trends to NEN–SWS, which may be indicative of a local perturbation of the regional stress field.