Crustal Thickness and the VP/VS Ratio within the Arabia Plate from P-wave Receiver Functions at 154 Broadband Seismic Stations

Open-File Report 2023-1042
By: , and 



As part of a joint Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) and United States Geological Survey project, we analyzed P-wave receiver functions from seismic stations covering most of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to map the thickness of the crust across the Arabia Plate. We present an update of crustal thickness estimates and fill in gaps for the western Arabian Shield and the rifted margin at the Red Sea (the coastal plain), as well as the eastern Arabian Platform. We applied a conventional H-k stacking algorithm and included careful attention to stacking weights, two forms of sedimentary corrections for stations located on the Arabian Platform, and additional processing for noisy stations. We obtained useful results at 154 stations from 898 teleseismic events over a 2-year period from 1995–1997 (for non-SGS stations) and a 6-year period from 2008–2014 (for SGS stations). Average crustal thickness (that is, depth to the Mohorovičić discontinuity [Moho] below the surface) beneath the Red Sea coastal plain (the rift margin) is 29 kilometers (km), beneath the volcanic fields (known in Arabic as harra [plural] or harrat [singular]) is 35 km, beneath the Arabian Shield (excluding harrats) is 37 km, and beneath the Arabian Platform is 38 km. Crustal thinning appears not to extend east of the rift escarpment, suggesting uniform extension that is no broader at depth than at the surface. In contrast to some previous interpretations that the Arabian Platform crust is thicker than that of the Arabian Shield, we find no statistically significant difference between their whole crustal thicknesses. However, the average sub-sedimentary crustal thickness (that is, the crystalline crust) for stations on the Arabian Platform is 34 km, 3 km thinner than the crust of the Arabian Shield. Individual station P-wave (pressure) velocity and S-wave (shear) velocity ratios (VP/VS) are highly variable for the Arabia Plate, ranging from 1.60 to 1.97 and averaging 1.75, with a standard deviation of 0.07. There are no statistically significant differences between VP/VS ratios of the different geologic regions of Saudi Arabia. Similar VP/ VS ratios, coupled with similar crustal thicknesses for harrats and the Arabian Shield, indicate that Cenozoic magmatism has contributed negligibly to crustal growth.

Suggested Citation

Blanchette, A.R., Klemperer, S.L., and Mooney, W.D., 2023, Crustal thickness and the VP/VS ratio within the Arabia Plate from P-wave receiver functions at 154 broadband seismic stations: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2023–1042, 325 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data and Method
  • H-k Stacking Result
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Quantitative Values Obtained in This Study
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Crustal thickness and the VP/VS ratio within the Arabia Plate from P-wave receiver functions at 154 broadband seismic stations
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2023-1042
DOI 10.3133/ofr20231042
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description xi, 325 p.
Country Saudi Arabia
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details