Seismicity, seismotectonics and crustal structure of the Southern Kenya Rift-new data from the Lake Magadi area

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Local seismic activity has been monitored in the southern part of the Kenya Rift in the area around Lake Magadi. An earthquake recording network consisting of 15 station sites was operated for 8 months from November 1997 to June 1998. During this period, the Magadi area proved to be seismically active. Approximately 10 events per day were detected and found to be equally distributed over the rift floor. The hypocentre depth distribution shows surprisingly large depths of up to 27 km in the south and much shallower depths in the northern part of the area. Apart from the background activity, swarm activity with rates of more than 300 events per day was also recorded. The epicentres are clustered and trace a linear structure lying SSW-NNE over a length of 10 km north of Lake Magadi. Hypocentres in the region of the earthquake cluster are shallow and exhibit a sharp cut-off at 9 km depth. A surface crack that occured during the recording period is connected to the earthquake swarm. Analysis of the focal mechanisms of selected earthquakes indicates predominantly normal faulting in response to a WNW-ESE-directed tensional stress field. This direction corresponds to the general alignment of the southernmost part of the Kenya Rift and to the surface faulting pattern inside the rift. The crustal structure of the area has been investigated using local earthquake tomography and the spatial distribution of hypocentres. The main results of the tomography are a linear positive velocity anomaly following the rift axis and a negative anomaly at shallow depth underneath Lake Magadi. The high velocities can be explained by mafic material that has intruded into the upper crust. The negative anomaly is attributed to highly fractured rocks. Maximum hypocentre depths indicate a body of low shear strength centred at the rift axis and a general deepening of the brittle-ductile transition from north to south.




Ibs-von Seht, M., Blumenstein, S., Wagner, R., Hollnack, D., & Wohlenberg, J. (2001). Seismicity, seismotectonics and crustal structure of the Southern Kenya Rift-new data from the Lake Magadi area. Geophysical Journal International, 146(2), 439–453.

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