East African Rift volcanism

Map of the East African Rift running from the Afar Triple Junction, along the Main Ethiopian Rift and continuing south through the Kenyan Rift.

The East African Rift (EAR) is an active continental rift resulting from the splitting of the African plate into two. The EAR has two main branches: the Eastern Rift Valley, which comprises the Main Ethiopia Rift running from the Afar Triple Junction and continues south as the Kenyan Rift Valley, and the Western Rift Valley.

The Afar Triple Junction, located at the northern end of the EAR, is part of the volcanically and seismically active portion of the EAR. This is one of the few places on Earth where we can witness plate divergence as the continental crust is actively splitting apart to form a new ocean.

BGS has worked in the EAR studying rift volcanism over a number of years through the Afar Rift project and now the RiftVolc project (see below). BGS has mapped the Dabbahu-Manda Hararo Rift in the Afar Depression, and is investigating volcanic hazards in the Main Ethiopian Rift.


Rift Volcanism: Past, Present, Future, 'RiftVolc' is a NERC-funded Large Grant project that started in September 2014. The project will investigate past and current magmatism and volcanism as well as future volcanic hazards in the Main Ethiopian Rift.

Along the EAR there is a great variety of volcano types, from large explosive silicic centres to effusive basaltic fissure systems. There is a wide variation in the styles of past volcanic eruptions as well as the frequency and magnitude of these eruptions.

BGS will lead the work on volcanic hazards as part of RiftVolc.

Afar Rift Project

Between 2007 and 2012, BGS partnered with the NERC-funded Afar Rift Consortium to investigate the creation and movement of magma (molten rock) from deep within the Earth to the surface in a rift setting.

BGS mapped the Afar region as part of the Afar Rift Project.


Please contact Dr Charlotte Vye-Brown for further information about BGS Volcanology's work in the East African Rift.