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Earth Surface & Interior

The Afar Depression is a vast area of distributed deformation at the junction between the three divergent boundaries separating the Arabia, Nubia, and Somalia plates. Because the three boundaries (the Aden Ridge in the east, the Dead Sea Ridge in the north, and the East African Rift in the south) have not achieved complete connection at the present time, the area is characterized by a complex network of faults, fissures, dykes, volcanic centers, and propagating rifts, collectively accommodating the far-field movement of the intervening plates. The goal of the proposed investigation is to understand the nature, distribution, and current rate of the deformation over this vast region in order to test physical models describing the processes occurring in the crust, as it stretches and eventually breaks up to become a divergent plate boundary. The present-day deformation field throughout the Afar Depression is virtually unknown besides the Asal Rift and Dabbahu segment, which were the loci of seismo-magmatic events in 1978 and 2005, respectively. The main observational objective of this investigation is to construct an image the evolving surface displacement field of the area using the technique of Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometry (InSAR). The 1997-2007 archive of radar data, acquired by the Canadian Space Agency RADARSAT satellite will be analyzed to construct time series of line of sight surface deformation maps over two ascending and two descending passes of the satellite. The maps will be used to test and constrain alternative physical models of the deforming crust involving faulting, dyking, and magmatic inflation processes. The study will provide totally new insights into tectonic and volcanic processes occurring at a divergent plate boundary, as it propagates into a continent.

Project PI: Gilles Peltzer/University of California, Los Angeles

Jet Propulsion Laboratory M/S 300-233 4800 Oak Grove Drive Pasadena, CA 91109

Phone: (818)354-7539

Fax: (818)354-9476

Email: peltzer@ess.ucla.edu

http://science.jpl.nasa.gov/people/Peltzer/

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Started: Aug 09, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 10, 2010

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