Kinematics of the Asal Rift (Djibouti) Determined from the Deformation of Fieale Volcano

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Science  16 Sep 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5179, pp. 1677-1681
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5179.1677


Because of its subaerial exposure the Asal rift segment provides an exceptional opportunity to quantify the deformation field of an active rift and assess the contribution of tectonics and volcanism to rifting processes. The present topography of the Asal rift results from the tectonic dismemberment during the last 100,000 years of a large central volcanic edifice that formed astride the rift zone 300,000 to 100,000 years ago. Three-dimensional deformation of this volcano has been quantified from the combined analysis of the topography and geology. The analysis indicates that spreading at 17 to 29 millimeters per year in a N40° ± 5°E direction accounts for most of the separation between Arabia and Somalia. The small topographic subsidence relative to extension suggests that tectonic thinning of the crust has been balanced by injection and underplating of magmatic material of near crustal density. The methodology developed in this study could also be applied to quantify deformation in relatively inaccessible areas where the main available information is topography or bathymetry.