Investigating the P wave velocity structure beneath Harrat Lunayyir, northwestern Saudi Arabia, using double-difference tomography and earthquakes from the 2009 seismic swarm

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In 2009, a swarm of more than 30,000 earthquakes occurred beneath the Harrat Lunayyir lava field in northwest Saudi Arabia. This event was just one of several seismic swarms to occur in this region over the past decade. Surface deformation associated with the seismicity, modeled in previous studies using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data, is best attributed to the intrusion of a 10 km long dyke. However, little is known about the velocity structure beneath Harrat Lunayyir, making assessment of future seismic and volcanic hazards difficult. In this study, we use local double-difference tomography to generate a P wave velocity model beneath Harrat Lunayyir and to more precisely locate earthquakes from the 2009 seismic swarm. A pronounced fast velocity anomaly, centered at ∼15 km depth with a shallower extension to the N-NW, is interpreted as an area of repeated magmatic intrusion. The crust surrounding the fast intrusion is slower than that suggested by broader-scale models for the Arabian Shield. The largest magnitude events occurred early in the swarm, concentrated at shallow depths (∼2-8 km) beneath northern Harrat Lunayyir, and these events are associated with the dyke intrusion. Later, deep earthquakes (∼15 km) beneath the southern end of the study region as well as a group of intermediate-depth events connecting the shallow and deep regions of seismicity occurred. These later events likely represent responses to the local stress conditions following the intrusion. Our results are unique since harrat magma systems are rarely imaged, and our observations, coupled with the seismic history in this region, suggest that future volcanic intrusions beneath Harrat Lunayyir are likely. Key PointsFast velocities beneath Harrat Lunayyir are interpreted as magmatic intrusionsCrustal velocities are slower than those suggested by broader-scale modelsEarthquakes from the 2009 swarm delineate the orientation of dyke intrusion © 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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Journal of Geophysical Research E: Planets

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