A Model For The Structure, Composition And Evolution Of The Kenya Rift
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The seismic refraction-wide-angle reflection experiments carried out in 1985 and 1990 in the Kenya rift (KRISP '85 and KRISP '90) show major crustal thickness variations both along and across the rift. Along the rift axis crustal thickness varies from 35 km in the south beneath the Kenya dome to 20 km in the north beneath the Turkana region. Due to the distribution of crustal thickness beneath the rift flanks, it can be stated that the major amount of variation in crustal thickness along the rift axis is due to the Tertiary rifting episode. The northwards decrease in crustal thickness can be correlated with changes in surface topography (northwards decrease), rift width (northwards increase), surface estimates of extension (5–10 km in the south and 35–40 km in the north) and Bouguer gravity, the regional northwards increase of which can be explained entirely by the change in crustal thickness. Below the 750 km long axial rift profile, uppermost mantle Pn velocities are low, being 7.5–7.7 km/s. However, under the northern part of the rift two layers with velocities of 8.1 km/s and 8.3 km/s are embedded in the low-velocity mantle material at 40–45 km and 60–65 km depth, respectively. In contrast, the wide-angle data show that beneath the Kenya dome, in the southern part of the rift, low mantle velocities occur down to at least 65 km depth. This mantle velocity structure is indicative of the depth to the onset of melting being at least 65 km beneath the northern part of the rift and thus not being shallower than the depth (45–50 km) to the onset of melting under the Kenya dome to the south. A profile across the rift north of the Kenya dome at the latitude of Lake Baringo shows that the low uppermost mantle Pn velocity of 7.5–7.7 km/s and crustal thinning of 5–10 km is confined to below the surface expression of the rift. An abrupt change in Moho depths and Pn velocities occurs as the rift boundaries are crossed. Beneath the rift flanks, normal Pn velocities of 8.0–8.2 km/s occur. The presence of hot mantle material beneath the Kenya dome since the onset of volcanism here at 15–20 Ma is still compatible with the abrupt change in mantle P-wave velocities as the rift boundaries are crossed. Petrological interpretation of the seismic velocities indicates a few (up to 5) percent basaltic melt in the mantle below the rift except in the two layers with velocities greater than 8.0 km/s under the northern part of the rift where some crystal orientation (anisotropy) is necessary. Below about 45–50 km depth beneath the southern part of the rift the magma could exist as in situ partial melt. The above results, taken together with results from teleseismic studies, petrology and surface geology, indicate anomalously hot mantle material appearing below the present site of the Kenya rift at about 20–30 Ma. The active uprising of this anomalously hot mantle material since this time has given rise to widespread volcanism along the whole length of the rift and has modified the crust beneath the rift by mafic igneous underplating and intrusion, especially into the basal crustal layer. Accompanying the uprise of the anomalously hot mantle material minor crustal extension (5–10 km) has occurred beneath the Kenya dome in the southern part of the rift where crustal thickness is large (35 km). Under the Turkana region in the northern part of the rift, a greater amount of extension (35–40 km) has taken place and the crustal thickness is small (20 km), although the depth to the onset of melting under the northern part of the rift is, if anything, greater than under the southern part of the rift.