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Open-File Report 2010–1083–P

Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2013 East African Rift

Compiled by Gavin P. Hayes, Eric S. Jones, Timothy J. Stadler, William D. Barnhart, Daniel E. McNamara, Harley M. Benz, Kevin P. Furlong, and Antonio Villaseñor

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (13.0 MB)Abstract

The East African Rift system (EARS) is a 3,000-km-long Cenozoic age continental rift extending from the Afar triple junction, between the horn of Africa and the Middle East, to western Mozambique. Sectors of active extension occur from the Indian Ocean, west to Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is the only rift system in the world that is active on a continent-wide scale, providing geologists with a view of how continental rifts develop over time into oceanic spreading centers like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Rifting in East Africa is not all coeval; volcanism and faulting have been an ongoing phenomenon on the continent since the Eocene (~45 Ma). The rifting began in northern East Africa, and led to the separation of the Nubia (Africa) and Arabia plates in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and in the Lake Turkana area at the Kenya-Ethiopia border. A Paleogene mantle superplume beneath East Africa caused extension within the Nubia plate, as well as a first order topographic high known as the African superswell which now includes most of the eastern and southern sectors of the Nubia plate. Widespread volcanism erupted onto much of the rising plateau in Ethiopia during the Eocene-Oligocene (45–29 Ma), with chains of volcanoes forming along the rift separating Africa and Arabia. Since the initiation of rifting in northeastern Africa, the system has propagated over 3,000 km to the south and southwest, and it experiences seismicity as a direct result of the extension and active magmatism.

First posted January 2, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, Geologic Hazards Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, Mail Stop 966
Denver, CO 80225

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Suggested citation:

Hayes, G.P., Jones, E.S., Stadler, T.J., Barnhart, W.D., McNamara, D.E., Benz, H.M., Furlong, K.P., and Villaseñor, Antonio, 2014, Seismicity of the Earth 1900–2013 East African Rift: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1083-P, 1 sheet, scale 1:8,500,000,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)

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