In February 1978 a seismic deep-refraction profile was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey along a 1000-km line across the Arabian Shield in western Saudi Arabia. The line begins in Mesozoic cover rocks near Riyadh on the Arabian Platform, leads southwesterly across three major Precambrian tectonic provinces, traverses Cenozoic rocks of the coastal plain near Jizan (Tihamat-Asir), and terminates at the outer edge of the Farasan Bank in the southern Red Sea. More than 500 surveyed recording sites were occupied, including 19 in the Farasan Islands. Six shot points were used: five on land, with most charges placed below the water table in drill holes, and one at sea, with charges placed on the sea floor and detonated from a ship. Slightly more than 61 metric tons of explosives were used in 19 discrete firings.
Seismic energy was recorded by 100 newly-developed portable seismic stations deployed in approximately 200 km-long arrays for each firing. Each station consisted of a standard 2-Hz vertical component geophone coupled to a self-contained analog recording instrument equipped with a magnetic-tape cassette.
In this final report, we fully document the field and data-processing procedures and present the final seismogram data set as both a digital magnetic tape and as record sections for each shot point. Record sections include a normalized set of seismograms, reduced at 6 km/s, and a true-amplitude set, reduced at 8 km/s, which have been adjusted for amplifier gain, individual shot size, and distance from the shot point.
Appendices give recorder station and shot information, digital data set descriptions, computer program listings, arrival times used in the interpretation, and a bibliography of reports published as a result of this project.
We used two-dimensional ray-tracing techniques in the data analysis, and our interpretation is based primarily on horizontally layered models. The Arabian Shield is composed, to first-order, of two layers, each about 20 km thick, with average velocities of 6.3 km/s and 7.0 km/s, respectively. At the western shield margin the crust thins to less than 20 km total thickness, beyond which the Red Sea shelf and coastal plain are interpreted to be underlain by oceanic crust.
A major crustal lateral velocity inhomogeneity northeast of Sabhah in the Shammar Tectonic Province is interpreted as the suture zone of two crustal blocks of different composition. Several high-velocity anomalies in the upper crust correlate with mapped gneissic dome structures. Two intra-crustal reflectors at13 km depth are interpreted as the tops of mafic intrusives.
The Mohorovicic discontinuity beneath the shield varies from 43 km depth in the northeast with 8.2 km/s mantle velocity to 38 km depth in the southwest with 8.0 km/s mantle velocity. Two velocity discontinuities are identified in the upper mantle, at 59 and 70 km depth.
We suggest further work, including refined analyses of the data employing filtering and synthetic seismogram techniques, as well as consideration of attenuation properties. Extension of the seismic refraction profile to the Arabian Gulf and some short profiles perpendicular to the existing profile would be fruitful areas for future field work.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Saudi Arabian seismic deep-refraction profiles; final project report