East African Rift System (EARS) Primary Site

Map of the East African Rift System highlighting the primary focus area and the collaborative targets of opportunity.The East African Rift System (EARS) exhibits a wide varitey of rift processes and characteristics, making it an ideal target for GeoPRISMS goals. Aspects of all the four key rift initiation and evolution (RIE) questions defined in the GeoPRISMS Science Plan can be addressed in part or entirely in this primary site, given the great variety of rift processes and characteristics expressed in this setting. It presents a young, currently-rifting system that expresses the entire history of a continental rift evolution – from initial border faulting in the south to seafloor spreading in the north. The complementary subaerial and lacustrine settings through the EARS present a distinctive mix of environments for the amphibious nature of the GeoPRISMS Program.

From the Science Plan

Several Themes are outlined in the GeoPRISMS Science & Implementation Plans and some thematic studies and projects are now underway. If you would like to organize a group to begin developing a plan for studying one or more of the RIE themes please contact the GeoPRISMS Office.

Click on each theme below to see current projects and some remarks on that theme from the GeoPRISMS Implementation Plan.

Research questionsPlanning

There are many research questions that could be addressed in the varied environments of the East African Rift System. Example outstanding research questions include:

  • What factors control the distribution and ponding of magmas and volatiles, and how are they related to the extensional fault systems bounding the rift?
  • How does the presence or absence of an upper-mantle plume influence extension?
  • How does the mechanical heterogeneity of the continental lithosphere influence rift initiation, morphology, and evolution?
  • How is strain accommodated and partitioned throughout the lithosphere and what are the controls on strain localization and migration?
  • How does rift topography, on either the continental- or basin-scale, influence regional climate and what are the associated feedback processes?

Further information about these topics, a summary of existing datasets, and critical research efforts for GeoPRISMS studies can be found in Section 3.2 of the GeoPRISMS Implementation Plan.

The planning workshop for the East African Rift System (EARS) GeoPRISMS Primary Site was held in Morristown, NJ, on October 25-27th 2012. An international group of ~115 attendees took part, including a gratifyingly large number of graduate students (~40). Overall, 15 different countries were represented, with a large number of participants from several African countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The main goals of the workshop were to clarify the community research objectives in the EARS, to discuss candidate focus areas for concentrated research, to identify opportunities for international partnerships, and to develop a detailed Implementation Plan for GeoPRISMS research in EARS to guide GeoPRISMS proposers and reviewers, considering the available resources and infrastructure. Following the meeting, the conveners distilled the feedback and outcomes of all the discussions and identify potential areas and collaborative targets of opportunity for GeoPRISMS effort:

  • Primary focus area: The Eastern Rift
  • Target 1: The Afar and Main Ethiopian Rift
  • Target 2: The Western Rift and SW branch
  • Target 3: Synoptic investigations along the entire rift

The Implementation Plan for the East African Rift System has been updated following the outcomes of the workshop, and is available for download.

Meetings and Workshops







  • RIE Implementation Workshop | Santa Fe, NM, Nov 4-6, 2010

Newsletter articles



2 Replies to “East African Rift System (EARS) Primary Site”

  1. Pingback: Job Postings: Faculty Positions, PhD & Postdoc positions | GeoPRISMS

  2. Pingback: PhD Topics in Rift Volcanism for 2015 | Rift Volcanism

Comments are closed.