Spatiotemporal Variations in Upper Crustal Extension Across the Different Basement Terranes of the Lake Tanganyika Rift, East Africa

Lachlan J.M. Wright, James D. Muirhead, Christopher A. Scholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Preexisting crustal heterogeneities are shown to influence rift process at a variety of scales. However, our understanding of how crustal inheritance influences rift-scale spatiotemporal kinematics of faulting in magma-poor rift environments is still very limited. Studies of active continental rifts can provide high-fidelity assessments of extensional processes and structures that are not possible through examination of ancient rifts that have undergone subsequent deformation events or are buried deeply beneath passive margins. We examine the influence of crustal inheritance on active rifting through balancing and restoring a series of regional cross sections across the Lake Tanganyika Rift in the Western Branch of the East African Rift System. The cross sections are produced using legacy seismic reflection data, reprocessed through prestack depth migration. This type example of a young, magma-poor continental rift transects several different basement terranes, including an Archean/Paleoproterozoic craton, and Proterozoic mobile belts. The Lake Tanganyika Rift exhibits two classic bell-shaped profiles of extension along strike, reaching a maximum of 7.15 km. A spatiotemporal integration of the extension data, and comparison with the various basement terranes the rift transects, reveals that extension in cratonic blocks is more widely distributed compared to mobile belt terranes, where strain rapidly localizes onto border faults by later rift stages. These results reveal how crustal inheritance exerts a fundamental control on the evolution of extension localization, ultimately impacting the geometry and structural architecture of rift basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019TC006019
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • East African Rift
  • Lake Tanganyika Rift
  • crustal inheritance
  • extension
  • normal fault
  • rifting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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