Kinematics of Active Deformation in the Malawi Rift and Rungwe Volcanic Province, Africa

C. J. Ebinger, Sarah Jaye Oliva, Thi Quan Pham, Katherine Peterson, Patrick Chindandali, Finnigan Illsley-Kemp, Connor Drooff, Donna J. Shillington, Natalie J. Accardo, Ryan J. Gallacher, J. Gaherty, Andrew A. Nyblade, Gabriel Mulibo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Although the deep, wide basins of the Western rift, Africa, have served as analogues for the evolution of half-graben basins, the geometry and kinematics of the border, intrabasinal, and transfer fault systems have been weakly constrained. Despite the >100-km-long fault systems bounding basins, little was known of seismicity patterns or the potential for M > 7.5 earthquakes. Using our new local earthquake database from the 2013-2015 Study of Extension and maGmatism in Malawi aNd Tanzania (SEGMeNT) seismic array (57 onshore, 32 lake-bottom stations) and TANGA14 (13 stations), we examine the kinematics and extension direction of the Rungwe Volcanic Province and northern Malawi rift. We relocated earthquakes using a new 1-D velocity model and both absolute and double-difference relocation methods. Local magnitudes of 1,178 earthquakes within the array are 0.7 < ML < 5.2 with a b-value 0.77 ± 0.03, and magnitude of completeness ML 1.9. Focal mechanism solutions for 63 earthquakes reveal predominantly normal and oblique-slip motion, and full moment tensor solutions for ML 4.5, 5.2 earthquakes have centroid depths within 2 km of catalog depths. The preferred nodal planes dip more than 40° from surface to >25-km depths. Extension direction from local earthquakes and source mechanisms of teleseismically detected earthquakes are approximately N58°E and N65°E, respectively, refuting earlier interpretations of a NW-SE transform fault system. The low b-value indicating strong coupling across crustal-scale border faults, border fault lengths >100 km, and evidence for aseismic deformation together indicate that infrequent M > 7.5 earthquakes are possible within this cratonic rift system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3928-3951
Number of pages24
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Kinematics of Active Deformation in the Malawi Rift and Rungwe Volcanic Province, Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this