Thermal and mechanical development of the East African Rift System
Ebinger, Cindy J.
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The deep basins, uplifted flanks, and volcanoes of the Western and Kenya rift systems have developed along the western and eastern margins of the 1300 km-wide East African plateau. Structural patterns deduced from field, Landsat, and geophysical studies in the Western rift reveal a series of asymmetric basins bounded by approximately 100 km-long segments of the border fault system. These basins are linked by oblique-slip and strike-slip faults cross-cutting the rift valley. Faults bounding the Kenya and Western rift valleys delineate two north-south-trending, 40-75 km wide zones of crustal extension, and little or no crustal thinning has occurred beneath the uplifted flanks or the central plateau. In the Western rift, volcanism in Late Miocene time began prior to or concurrent with basinal subsidence, followed by rift flank uplift. Individual extensional basins developed diachronously, and basinal propagation may give rise to the along-axis segmentation of the rift valley. The coherence between gravity and topography data indicates that the mechanical lithosphere beneath the two rift valleys has been weakened relative to the central plateau and adjacent cratonic regions. Gravity and topography data at wavelengths corresponding to the overcompensated East African plateau can be explained by density variations within the upper mantle that are dynamically maintained.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution May 1988
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