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East African topography and volcanism explained by a single, migrating plume

Hassan, Rakib and Williams, Simon E. and Gurnis, Michael and Müller, Dietmar (2020) East African topography and volcanism explained by a single, migrating plume. Geoscience Frontiers, 11 (5). pp. 1669-1680. ISSN 1674-9871. doi:10.1016/j.gsf.2020.01.003.

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Anomalous topographic swells and Cenozoic volcanism in east Africa have been associated with mantle plumes. Several models involving one or more fixed plumes beneath the northeastward migrating African plate have been suggested to explain the space-time distribution of magmatism in east Africa. We devise paleogeographically constrained global models of mantle convection and, based on the evolution of flow in the deepest lower mantle, show that the Afar plume migrated southward throughout its lifetime. The models suggest that the mobile Afar plume provides a dynamically consistent explanation for the spatial extent of the southward propagation of the east African rift system (EARS), which is difficult to explain by the northeastward migration of Africa over one or more fixed plumes alone, over the last ≈45 Myrs. We further show that the age-progression of volcanism associated with the southward propagation of EARS is consistent with the apparent surface hotspot motion that results from southward motion of the modelled Afar plume beneath the northeastward migrating African plate. The models suggest that the Afar plume became weaker as it migrated southwards, consistent with trends observed in the geochemical record.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Williams, Simon E.0000-0003-4670-8883
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Additional Information:© 2020 China University of Geosciences (Beijing) and Peking University. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. Under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Peer-review under responsibility of China University of Geosciences (Beijing). Received 29 January 2019, Revised 27 October 2019, Accepted 1 January 2020, Available online 20 January 2020. We obtained CitcomS (version 3.2) from the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics ( GPlates ( is developed at the University of Sydney, the California Institute of Technology and the Geological Survey of Norway. This research was supported by ARC grants IH130200012 and DP130101946 and MG was supported by the National Science Foundation under award EAR-1645775. This research was undertaken with the assistance of resources from the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), which is supported by the Australian Government. An earlier draft of the manuscript benefited from reviews by Clinton Conrad and two anonymous reviewers. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Australian Research CouncilIH130200012
Australian Research CouncilDP130101946
Subject Keywords:Numerical mantle flow models; Deep mantle flow; LLSVP morphology; Plume dynamics; Plume motion; Dynamic topography
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200122-080816495
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Official Citation:Rakib Hassan, Simon E. Williams, Michael Gurnis, Dietmar Müller, East African topography and volcanism explained by a single, migrating plume, Geoscience Frontiers, Volume 11, Issue 5, 2020, Pages 1669-1680, ISSN 1674-9871, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100824
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Jan 2020 17:10
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:57

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