Accommodation of East African Rifting Across the Turkana Depression

E. Knappe, R. Bendick, C. Ebinger, Y. Birhanu, E. Lewi, M. Floyd, R. King, G. Kianji, N. Mariita, T. Temtime, B. Waktola, B. Deresse, M. Musila, J. Kanoti, M. Perry

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27 Scopus citations


Geodetic observations in the Turkana Depression of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya constrain the kinematic relay of extension from a single rift in Ethiopia to parallel rifts in Kenya and Uganda. Global Position System stations in the region record approximately 4.7 mm/year of total eastward extension, consistent with the ITRF14 Euler pole for Nubia-Somalia angular velocity. Extension is partitioned into high strain rates on localized structures and lower strain rates in areas of elevated topography, as across the Ethiopian Plateau. Where high topography is absent, extension is relayed between the Main Ethiopian Rift and the Eastern Rift across the Turkana Depression exclusively through localized extension on and immediately east of Lake Turkana (up to 0.2 microstrain/year across Lake Turkana). The observed scaling and location of active extension in the Turkana Depression are inconsistent with mechanical models predicting distributed stretching due to either inherited lithospheric weakness or reactivated structures oblique to the present-day extension direction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019JB018469
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • East Africa
  • GPS
  • Turkana Depression
  • continental rifting
  • kinematics


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