Numerical modelling of quaternary deformation and post-rifting displacement in the Asal-Ghoubbet rift (Djibouti, Africa)

Rodolphe Cattin, Cécile Doubre, Jean Bernard de Chabalier, Geoffrey King, Christophe Vigny, Jean Philippe Avouac, Jean Claude Ruegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last three decades a host of information on rifting process relating to the geological and thermal structure, long-time scale deformation (Quaternary and Holocene) and rifting cycle displacement across the Asal-Ghoubbet rift has been made available. These data are interpreted with a two-dimensional thermo-mechanical model that incorporates rheological layering of the lithosphere, dyke inflation and faulting. Active fault locations and geometry are mainly controlled by both thermal structure and magma intrusion into the crust. The distributed slip throughout the inner rift is related to the closeness of magma chamber, leading to additional stress into the upper thinned crust. Assuming a constant Arabia-Somalia motion of 11 mm/year, the variation of subsidence rate between the last 100 and 9 ka is associated with a decrease of the average injection rate from 10 to 5 mm/year. These values, about equal to the regional opening rate, suggest that both volcanism and tectonic play an equivalent role in the rifting process. Our modelled sequence of events gives one possible explanation for both vertical and horizontal displacements observed since the 1978 seismovolcanic crisis. Although part of the post-rifting deformation could be due to viscous relaxation, the high opening rate in the first years after the event and the abrupt velocity change in 1984-1986 argue for a large dyke inflation of 12 cm/year ending in 1985. The asymmetric and constant pattern of the GPS velocity since 1991 suggests that present post-rifting deformation is mainly controlled by fault creep and regional stretching. This study demonstrates the internal consistency of the data set, highlights the role of magmatism in the mechanics of crustal stretching and reveals a complex post-rifting process including magma injection, fault creep and regional stretching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-367
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Nov 2005


  • Asal-Ghoubbet
  • Dyke inflation
  • Fault creep
  • Magma injection
  • Rift zone
  • Rifting cycle


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