East African Rift System (EARS) plume structure: Insights from Quaternary mafic lavas of Turkana, Kenya

Tanya Furman, Juila G. Bryce, Jeffrey Karson, Annamaria Iotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Quaternary mafic lavas from Lake Turkana (northern Kenya) provide information on processes operating beneath the East African Rift in an area of anomalous lithospheric and crustal thinning. Inferred depths of melting beneath Turkana (15-20 km) are shallower than those recorded elsewhere along the rift, consistent with the anomalously thin crustal section. The mafic lavas have elevated incompatible trace element contents when compared with mid-ocean ridge basalts, requiring an enrichment event in the source region. Basalts with low Sr isotopic ratios (∼0·7030) have high 143 Nd/144 Nd (>0·5129) and 206Pb/204 Pb values (∼19·4) and incompatible trace element abundances that indicate derivation from a sub-lithospheric mantle source region. Quaternary mafic rocks with 10-15 wt % MgO record contributions from a mantle plume that is isotopically similar to the deep mantle source region for global hotspots. These Turkana basalts have isotope and incompatible trace element ratios that overlap with those of Quaternary mafic lavas from the Red Sea, the western Gulf of Aden, and northern Kenya, interpreted as being derived from mixtures of plume and ambient mantle sources. The Turkana data imply a common and long-lived mantle plume composition beneath both the Ethiopia and Kenya domes. This scenario is supported by tomographic results indicating a discontinuous thermal and chemical anomaly that orginates in the deep mantle beneath southern Africa, and is also consistent with the seismically determined shallow mantle structure beneath East Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1069-1088
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Petrology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Basalts
  • East Africa
  • Geochemistry
  • Plume
  • Rifting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'East African Rift System (EARS) plume structure: Insights from Quaternary mafic lavas of Turkana, Kenya'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this