Distributed Nubia-Somalia relative motion and dike intrusion in the Main Ethiopian Rift

R. Bendick, S. McClusky, R. Bilham, L. Asfaw, S. Klemperer

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The Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) in central Ethiopia extended in the rift-normal direction at a mean rate of 4.0 ± 0.9 mm yr-1(1σ) during the period 1992-2003, nearly a factor of two slower than the opening rate estimated from global plate motion inversions. Rift opening near a geodetic array during this period was accommodated by a single dike injection event in 1993, spatially coincident with active magmatic segments, probably triggered by observed seismicity. Following dike injection, the crust in the rift relaxed as a layered medium, with a ∼15-km-thick elastic lid over a viscous half space of 1018Pa s. Diking, rather than normal faulting on rift-bounding faults, appears to be the predominant mechanism of extension in the MER, explaining the very low regional rates of moment release. The length scale and temporal behaviour of surface displacements require viscoelastic rheology in the rift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-310
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • African rift
  • Continental rifting
  • Geodesy
  • Viscoelasticity


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