Abstract

Recent geological fieldwork, radiometric age dating of volcanic rocks, gravity and seismic reflection surveys have considerably refined our understanding of the tectonic evolution of the northern Kenya Rift. These data reveal that deep, half-graben basins up to 7 km thick were initiated west of Lake Turkana probably during Late Oligocene-Early Miocene times. The basins, bounded by easterly dipping faults, trend along the western side of the rift from Lake Turkana to the Elgayo Escarpment-Tugen Hills area. Some rift basins were episodically active from the Oligocene to the Pliocene while others were only active for a few million years. Some sag basins may have developed during periods of rifting quiescence. In the Turkana area the location of faulting gradually shifted eastwards with time. Volcanism both preceded and accompanied rifting. Within the Turkana area, volcanism moved south and east with time, beginning about 33 Ma (probably preceding half graben formation by a few million years) and continued to the present day. Extension along faults is greater in the Turkana area (between 25-40 km) and decreases southwards to probably 5-10 km or less in the southern Kenya rift. This pattern of extension values agrees with deep seismic refraction work (KRISP), which indicates thin crust in the Turkana area (about 20 km) that thickens to about 35 km south of Lake Baringo. The extension values, crustal thinning, age of volcanism and the timing of faulting to the south all point towards a southerly propagation of the rift.

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