Geophysical project in Ethiopia studies continental breakup


  • P. K. H. Maguire,

    1. University of Leicester
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  • C. J. Ebinger,

  • G. W. Stuart,

  • G. D. Mackenzie,

  • K. A. Whaler,

  • J.-M. Kendall,

  • M. A. Khan,

  • C. M. R. Fowler,

  • S. L. Klemperer,

  • G. R. Keller,

  • S. Harder,

  • T. Furman,

  • K. Mickus,

  • Laike Asfaw,

  • Atalay Ayele,

  • Bekele Abebe


As continental rift zones evolve to sea floor spreading, they do so through progressive episodes of lithospheric stretching, heating, and magmatism, yet the actual process of continental breakup is poorly understood. The East African Rift system in northeastern Ethiopia is central to our understanding of this process, as it lies at the transition between continental and oceanic rifting [Ebinger and Casey, 2001].

We are exploring the kinematics and dynamics of continental breakup through the Ethiopia Afar Geoscientific Lithospheric Experiment (EAGLE), which aims to probe the crust and upper mantle structure between the Main Ethiopian (continental) and Afar (ocean spreading) rifts, a region providing an ideal laboratory to examine the process of breakup as it is occurring. EAGLE is a multidisciplinary study centered around the most advanced seismic project yet undertaken in Africa (Figure l). Our study follows the Kenya Rift International Seismic Project [e.g., KRISP Working Group, 1995],and capitalizes on the IRIS/PASSCAL broadband seismic array [Nyblade and Langston, 2002], providing a telescoping view of the East African Rift within this suspected plume province.