Intracontinental rift comparisons: Baikal and Rio Grande Rift Systems



Both the Baikal rift in Siberia and the Rio Grande rift in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas are major intracontinental extensional structures of Cenozoic age that affect regions about 1500 km long and several hundred km wide (Figures 1, 2). In the summer of 1988 these rifts were visited by study groups of U.S. and Soviet geoscientists during cooperative field workshops sponsored by the Soviet Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and U.S. Geological Survey.

In the Rio Grande region, we spent 2 weeks examining rift features between El Paso, Tex., and Denver, Colo. Particular emphasis was on the sedimentary record of rift evolution, widespread volcanic activity from inception of rifting to the present, geophysical expression of rift features, and relations between rifting and the larger-scale evolution of the North American Cordillera. In the Baikal region, which presents formidable logistic problems for a workshop, we travelled by bus, truck, helicopter, and ship to examine young seismotectonic features, rift-related basalt, and bounding structures of the Siberian craton that influenced rift development (Figure 3).