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Cenozoic tectono-sedimentary evolution of the northern Turkana Depression (East African Rift System) and its significance for continental rifts

Nutz, A. and Ragon, T. and Schuster, M. (2022) Cenozoic tectono-sedimentary evolution of the northern Turkana Depression (East African Rift System) and its significance for continental rifts. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 578 . Art. No. 117285. ISSN 0012-821X. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117285.

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Rifting is an emblematic facet of continental drift and its early stage (i.e., stretching phase) is pivotal to be fully characterized and understood because it then conditions all subsequent stages of the break-up cycle. Although the final architectures of rifted margins have been extensively documented and discussed over the past decades from a wide range of examples and from multiple surface and sub-surface data, the complete evolution of the stretching phase itself remains mostly illustrated from analogue and numerical models and more rarely from real case studies and field evidences. The northern Turkana Depression (Cenozoic East African Rift System) stands as a key natural example to investigate every stage of the evolution of a stretching phase, as it provides almost ∼30 Ma of rift evolution from its initiation to present-day. In this study, we combine field analyses and seismic reflection data to characterize every stage of this tectono-sedimentary evolution, with a focus on the, rarely observed, surface rupture initiation and tectonic decay. In particular, we show rifting initiates with the reactivation of non-optimal inherited structures, progresses with their abandonment during the development of long and wide grabens or half-grabens, and locally terminates with the development of a post-tectonic flexural sag, synchronously to the migration of the locus of brittle deformation to an adjacent area where starts a similar cycle. Our observations allow us to nuance commonly accepted generic rift evolution models, and to discuss possible geodynamic controls on fault evolution and strain migration. We propose a field-based alternate conceptual evolution model for rift systems sharing common characteristics with the northern Turkana Depression such as abundant inherited basement structures, thin and hot lithosphere and a low to moderate magmatism.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Nutz, A.0000-0002-8224-5639
Ragon, T.0000-0002-1276-1910
Schuster, M.0000-0002-4412-8685
Additional Information:© 2021 Elsevier. Received 21 June 2021, Revised 25 October 2021, Accepted 3 November 2021, Available online 25 November 2021, Version of Record 13 January 2022. This work is a contribution to the Rift Lakes Sedimentology project (RiLakS). We thank the Kenyan guides who worked with us in the field, Francis Emekwi and Sammy Lokorodi. Moreover, we thank the West Turkana Archeological Project and the Omo Group Research Expedition for helpful discussions and facilities. This research project was conducted in partnership with the National Oil Corporation of Kenya. Permission to conduct geological fieldwork in Kenya was provided by NACOSTI. We warmly thank C.K. Morley and C.H. Scholz for their very constructive reviews that helped to improve the manuscript. CRediT authorship contribution statement. A. Nutz, T. Ragon and M. Schuster together conceptualized this manuscript. A. Nutz wrote the manuscript while T. Ragon and M. Schuster reviewed several times the manuscript during the writing process. 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.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Oil Corporation of KenyaUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:graben; tectonic; sag; Cenozoic; Omo Group
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220513-558004000
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Official Citation:A. Nutz, T. Ragon, M. Schuster, Cenozoic tectono-sedimentary evolution of the northern Turkana Depression (East African Rift System) and its significance for continental rifts, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 578, 2022, 117285, ISSN 0012-821X,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114754
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:13 May 2022 22:19
Last Modified:13 May 2022 22:19

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