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The Turkana Rift Arrays Investigating Lithospheric Structure (TRAILS) Experiment

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The Turkana Depression is a broad ( 500km-wide), topographically-subdued ( 0.5km), region between the elevated Ethiopian ( 1.5km) and East African Plateaus ( 2.5km). The Depression is unique in East Africa for being host to a NW-SE-trending failed Mesozoic (Anza) rift system through which the near-orthogonal, N-S-trending East African Rift subsequently developed. Whether the Depression’s low-lying nature is a result of a significantly thinned crust instigated by its multiple rifting phases, or instead due to a lack of dynamic mantle support is debated. Also poorly understood is the extent to which Cenozoic rifting and magmatism have developed across the Depression during the linkage of other comparatively narrow East African Rift zones to the north and south. Utilising data from the 2019-2021 Turkana Rift Arrays Investigating Lithospheric Structure project and surrounding networks, receiver function analysis and its joint inversion with surface-waves2, are used to probe Moho architecture and the lithosphere-asthenosphere system. Receiver function results1 reveal a thinned crust (20-25km) throughout the Depression: 10-20km thinner than the Ethiopian Plateau and Tanzania Craton. The Depression’s low elevations are thus likely an isostatic response from a thinned crust and not a lack of mantle dynamic support. High associated crustal stretching factors (β

1. Ogden, C. et al., (2023), Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 609, 118,088, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2023.118088. 2. Kounoudis, R. et al., (2023), Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2023.118386. 3. Boyce, A., et al., (2023), Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 24 (8), e2022GC010,775, doi:10.1029/2022GC010775.

This talk is part of the Bullard Laboratories Wednesday Seminars series.

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