Apparently-deep events in the Middle Atlas resolved to be shallow: Implications for lithospheric deformation

Shashwat K. Singh, Maximiliano J. Bezada, Driss Elouai, Mimoun Harnafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The occurrence of intermediate depth seismicity in intracontinental settings is rare, but it has been postulated with various degrees of certainty in several regions. One such region is the Middle Atlas of Morocco. Since 1960, 75 intermediate depth earthquakes have been reported in this region by Spain's National Geographic Institute (IGN). The apparent deep nature of these events is hard to reconcile with well-established geophysical evidence of a thin lithosphere under the Middle Atlas, but has been associated with mantle delamination processes. We relocate 4 events with IGN-reported depths > 80 km that were recorded by a relatively dense temporary deployment; using a recent regional 3D velocity model obtained through teleseismic body and surface wave tomography. The relocation procedure uses a grid-search approach to minimize the mean normalized misfit, where each travel-time misfit is normalized by the estimated pick uncertainty. We find that our observed arrivals are much better fit by shallow (< 5 km) depths than the reported depths of > 80 km. We propose that these shallow foci earthquakes are the result of regional crustal deformation of this region caused by the present convergence between Africa and Eurasian Plate. We infer that if there are any ongoing delamination processes in the area, they are aseismic. This study is an example of how local earthquake locations in tectonically complex areas can be significantly improved by using a dense local seismic array and a well-constrained 3-D velocity model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Nov 22 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was initiated during a summer internship partially funded by the S. N. Bose Scholars Program , the authors are grateful for the support received. Thanks to Tine Thomas and James Wookey for providing access to data from their stations in western Morocco. The authors also wish to express their thanks to Spains's Instituto Geográfico Nacional for making their catalog freely available online.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Earthquake location
  • Intermediate-depth seismicity
  • Middle Atlas


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