Torque exerted on the side of crustal blocks controls the kinematics of Ethiopian Rift

Ameha A. Muluneh, Tesfaye Kidane, Marco Cuffaro, Carlo Doglioni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Plate tectonic stress at active plate boundary can arises from 1) a torque applied on the side of lithospheric blocks and 2) a torque at the base of the lithosphere due to the flow of the underlying mantle. In this paper we use a simple force balance analysis to compare side and basal shear stresses and their contribution in driving kinematics and deformation in the Ethiopian Rift (ER), in the northern part of the East African Rift System (EARS). Assuming the constraints of the ER given by the dimension of the lithospheric blocks, the strain rate, the viscosity of the low velocity zone (LVZ) and the depth of the brittle-ductile transition zone, the lateral torque is several orders of magnitude higher than the basal torque. The minor contribution of basal torque might be due to low viscosity in the LVZ. Both Africa and Somalia plates are moving to the "west" relative to the mantle and there are not slabs that can justify this pull and consequent motion. Therefore, we invoke that westerly oriented tidal torque on Africa and Somalia plates in providing the necessary side torque in the region. This plate motion predicts significant sinistral transtension along the ER and rift parallel strike-slip faulting similar to the estimated angular velocity vector for tectonic blocks and GPS observations. Vertical axis block rotations are observed in areas where the lithospheric mantle is removed and strain is widely distributed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Volume116
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016

Fingerprint

torque
mantle
low velocity zone
viscosity
kinematics
block rotation
transtension
plate motion
plate tectonics
plate boundary
strain rate
westerly
transition zone
shear stress
slab
lithosphere
faulting
GPS
tectonics

Keywords

  • Block tectonics
  • Ethiopian Rift
  • Euler pole
  • Low velocity zone
  • Torque balance analysis
  • Vertical axis rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geology

Cite this

Torque exerted on the side of crustal blocks controls the kinematics of Ethiopian Rift. / Muluneh, Ameha A.; Kidane, Tesfaye; Cuffaro, Marco; Doglioni, Carlo.

In: Journal of African Earth Sciences, Vol. 116, 01.04.2016, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Muluneh, Ameha A.; Kidane, Tesfaye; Cuffaro, Marco; Doglioni, Carlo / Torque exerted on the side of crustal blocks controls the kinematics of Ethiopian Rift.

In: Journal of African Earth Sciences, Vol. 116, 01.04.2016, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "Plate tectonic stress at active plate boundary can arises from 1) a torque applied on the side of lithospheric blocks and 2) a torque at the base of the lithosphere due to the flow of the underlying mantle. In this paper we use a simple force balance analysis to compare side and basal shear stresses and their contribution in driving kinematics and deformation in the Ethiopian Rift (ER), in the northern part of the East African Rift System (EARS). Assuming the constraints of the ER given by the dimension of the lithospheric blocks, the strain rate, the viscosity of the low velocity zone (LVZ) and the depth of the brittle-ductile transition zone, the lateral torque is several orders of magnitude higher than the basal torque. The minor contribution of basal torque might be due to low viscosity in the LVZ. Both Africa and Somalia plates are moving to the {"}west{"} relative to the mantle and there are not slabs that can justify this pull and consequent motion. Therefore, we invoke that westerly oriented tidal torque on Africa and Somalia plates in providing the necessary side torque in the region. This plate motion predicts significant sinistral transtension along the ER and rift parallel strike-slip faulting similar to the estimated angular velocity vector for tectonic blocks and GPS observations. Vertical axis block rotations are observed in areas where the lithospheric mantle is removed and strain is widely distributed.",
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AU - Doglioni,Carlo

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N2 - Plate tectonic stress at active plate boundary can arises from 1) a torque applied on the side of lithospheric blocks and 2) a torque at the base of the lithosphere due to the flow of the underlying mantle. In this paper we use a simple force balance analysis to compare side and basal shear stresses and their contribution in driving kinematics and deformation in the Ethiopian Rift (ER), in the northern part of the East African Rift System (EARS). Assuming the constraints of the ER given by the dimension of the lithospheric blocks, the strain rate, the viscosity of the low velocity zone (LVZ) and the depth of the brittle-ductile transition zone, the lateral torque is several orders of magnitude higher than the basal torque. The minor contribution of basal torque might be due to low viscosity in the LVZ. Both Africa and Somalia plates are moving to the "west" relative to the mantle and there are not slabs that can justify this pull and consequent motion. Therefore, we invoke that westerly oriented tidal torque on Africa and Somalia plates in providing the necessary side torque in the region. This plate motion predicts significant sinistral transtension along the ER and rift parallel strike-slip faulting similar to the estimated angular velocity vector for tectonic blocks and GPS observations. Vertical axis block rotations are observed in areas where the lithospheric mantle is removed and strain is widely distributed.

AB - Plate tectonic stress at active plate boundary can arises from 1) a torque applied on the side of lithospheric blocks and 2) a torque at the base of the lithosphere due to the flow of the underlying mantle. In this paper we use a simple force balance analysis to compare side and basal shear stresses and their contribution in driving kinematics and deformation in the Ethiopian Rift (ER), in the northern part of the East African Rift System (EARS). Assuming the constraints of the ER given by the dimension of the lithospheric blocks, the strain rate, the viscosity of the low velocity zone (LVZ) and the depth of the brittle-ductile transition zone, the lateral torque is several orders of magnitude higher than the basal torque. The minor contribution of basal torque might be due to low viscosity in the LVZ. Both Africa and Somalia plates are moving to the "west" relative to the mantle and there are not slabs that can justify this pull and consequent motion. Therefore, we invoke that westerly oriented tidal torque on Africa and Somalia plates in providing the necessary side torque in the region. This plate motion predicts significant sinistral transtension along the ER and rift parallel strike-slip faulting similar to the estimated angular velocity vector for tectonic blocks and GPS observations. Vertical axis block rotations are observed in areas where the lithospheric mantle is removed and strain is widely distributed.

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