The East African rift system in the light of KRISP 90


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On the basis of a test experiment in 1985 (KRISP 85) an integrated seismic-refraction/teleseismic survey (KRISP 90) was undertaken to study the deep structure beneath the Kenya rift down to depths of 100-150 km. This paper summarizes the highlights of KRISP 90 as reported in this volume and discusses their broad implications as well as the structure of the Kenya rift in the general framework of other continental rifts. Major scientific goals of this phase of KRISP were to reveal the detailed crustal and upper mantle structure under the Kenya rift, to study the relationship between mantle updoming and the development of sedimentary basins and other shallow structures within the rift, to understand the role of the Kenya rift within the Afro-Arabian rift system and within a global perspective and to elucidate fundamental questions such as the mode and mechanism of continental rifting. The KRISP results clearly demonstrate that the Kenya rift is associated with sharply defined lithospheric thinning and very low upper mantle velocities down to depths of over 150 km. In the south-central portion of the rift, the lithospheric mantle has been thinned much more than the crust. To the north, high-velocity layers detected in the upper mantle appear to require the presence of anistropy in the form of the alignment of olivine crystals. Major axial variations in structure were also discovered, which correlate very well with variations in the amount of extension, the physiographic width of the rift valley, the regional topography and the regional gravity anomalies. Similar relationships are particularly well documented in the Rio Grande rift. To the extent that truly comparable data sets are available, the Kenya rift shares many features with other rift zones. For example, crustal structure under the Kenya, Rio Grande and Baikal rifts and the Rhine Graben is generally symmetrically centered on the rift valleys. However, the Kenya rift is distinctive, but not unique, in terms of the amount of volcanism. This volcanic activity would suggest large-scale modification of the crust by magmatism. Although there is evidence of underplating in the form of a relatively high-velocity lower crustal layer, there are no major seismic velocity anomalies in the middle and upper crust which would suggest pervasive magmatism. This apparent lack of major modification is an enigma which requires further study. ?? 1994.

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