Local tomography model of the northeastern Black Sea: intra-plate crustal underthrusting

Valentina Gobarenko, Tamara Yegorova, Randell Stephenson

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The Greater Caucasus and southern Crimean Mountains form part of a fold–thrust belt located on the northern margin of the Black Sea, south of the Precambrian craton of eastern Europe. Its southern limit is approximated by the Main Caucasus Thrust, which runs to the west from onshore Russia and Georgia along the whole of the northern margin of the Black Sea. The Main Caucasus Thrust is related to a zone of present-day seismicity along the southern Crimea–Caucasus coast of the Black Sea called the Crimea–Caucasus Seismic Zone. Thick continental crust north of the Main Caucasus Thrust lies adjacent to the thin ‘suboceanic' or transitional crust of the Black Sea Basin. A local seismic tomography study of this area in the vicinity of the Kerch and Taman peninsulas, which lie between the Azov Sea and the Black Sea, has been carried out based on 195 weak (mb≤3) earthquakes occurring from 1975 to 2010 and recorded at four permanent and three temporary seismological stations on the Kerch and Taman peninsulas. The results, for a volume of about 200×100 km (east–west and north–south, respectively) and a depth of about 40 km, provide evidence for significant heterogeneity in the P-wave and S-wave velocities. Velocities inferred in the northern part of the model suggest that the continental crust underlying the Crimea–Azov region north of the Main Caucasus Thrust is of different tectonic affinity (cratonic) than that underlying the northeastern part of the Black Sea, south of the Main Caucasus Thrust (Neoproterozoic–Palaeozoic accretionary domain). In the southern part of the model, at depths of 25–40 km, the uppermost mantle below the thin quasi-oceanic crust of the Black Sea has anomalous low P-wave velocities with high P- to S-wave velocity ratios. This is tentatively interpreted as representing serpentinized upper mantle of continental lithosphere exhumed during Cretaceous rifting and lithospheric hyperextension of the eastern Black Sea. The transition between the continental domains and the crust underlain by anomalous upper mantle is closely related to the Crimea–Caucasus Seismic Zone, where earthquake foci deepen northwards, suggesting that the latter is being thrust under the former in this intra-plate setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-239
Number of pages19
JournalSpecial Publication - Geological Society of London
Early online date27 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

The work leading to this paper was partly supported by the DARIUS programme, an industry-supported research consortium based at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of D. Cornwell and one anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of the manuscript


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