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Keywords:

  • continental rift, crustal strain, magmatism, spatial distribution

Abstract

[1] The spatial distribution of monogenetic vents and the geochemistry of their erupted products can be used to probe heterogeneity in lithospheric strain across a rift. We show that Quaternary volcanic belts in the central Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) exhibit differences in vent fractal clustering with an exponent indicative of more clustering and a shallower magma reservoir for the Wonji Fault Belt (WFB), in comparison to the Silti-Debre Zeyit Fault Zone (SDFZ). The range of lengths that exhibit vent fractal clustering is bounded by (1) a lower cutoff of few hundreds of meters that correlates with the depth of emplacement of intrusive material and is likely linked to evolving silicic magma systems and (2) an upper cutoff which we interpret to scale with the depth from which dikes originate just prior to eruption: ~10 km for WFB and ~7 km for SDFZ. We attribute this difference to strain partitioning within the MER, which favors dike formation at greater depths beneath the more highly strained eastern margin of the MER (below the WFB), in comparison to the western rift margin (below the SDFZ). Statistical analysis of monogenetic fields in the MER show, when reviewed in light of a priori geophysical and geodetic data, that the plumbing system of monogenetic volcanism style is strongly controlled by crustal strain state. Such statistical techniques may have application in probing the magma systems of other environments where less geophysical or geochemical controls exist.