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RiftLink is subdivided into four scientific themes including eleven projects as well as the theme coordination.

Theme A includes geophysical methods (Projects A1 and A2) to investigate the lithosphere and asthenosphere structures. A major goal is to map the crust/mantle boundary and the projects will provide a 3D picture of thermal anomalies and flow patterns in the upper mantle. Volcanic rocks and their mantle xenoliths close to the Rwenzori Mountains will yield information on the dynamics of the lithosphere and asthenosphere (Project A3).

RiftLInk Organigram

RiftLink Themes A (Lithosphere/Asthenosphere Processes), B (Surface Processes), C (Surface/Atmosphere Processes), D (Modelling) as well as Z (Coordination) and Projects A1 - A3, B1 - B3, C1 - C2 as well as D1 and D2.


Volcanic rocks studied in Project A3 bridge between deep-seated and (near-)surface processes of Theme B. The kinematics of major rift faults, timing of faulting, the role of external boundary conditions and GPS-derived short-term uplift rates will be covered by Project B1. Project B2 addresses the timing of uplift using low-temperature thermochronology. Emphasis will be on possible correlations between the timing of uplift and marked changes in the kinematic field (Project B1) and changes in climate or biogeographical zonation patterns (Theme C projects). The Rwenzori Mountains provide the best opportunity to obtain precise and high-resolution uplift rates in any rift setting on Earth. Rates of uplift will show whether uplift occurred continuously or in pulses. Possible changes in rift kinematics (Project B1) might correlate with pulses in rift-flank uplift (Project B2). The direct consequences of uplift, such as erosion and sedimentation (Project B3) and the developing geomorphology will yield further information about timing and rate of rift-flank uplift.

Theme C addresses aspects of the climatic evolution of East Africa since the beginning of Cenozoic rifting. Project C1 will derive palaeoclimatic information by isotope and geochemical analyses of mammalian tooth enamel. Project C2 uses vertebrate as well as invertebrate faunal assemblages as proxies.

Theme D has a central function because the modelling projects D1 and D2 will integrate the data from projects of Themes A-C into a comprehensive Earth system science model for extreme rift-flank uplift and its climatic consequences. A major aim is to address the impact of the uplifting rift flanks on the climate in equatorial Africa through climate modelling (Project D1). In a first stage of climate modelling a basic numerical experiment with a 3D coupled ocean-atmosphere model will be performed under present day conditions with and without uplifted rift flanks to test the sensitivity of the general circulation to this topographical feature. An imbedded regional model will be used in order to give more detailed information about alterations in precipitation patterns. The seismological, petrological, structural and thermochronological results are important for setting up appropriate boundary conditions for dynamic modelling (Project D2), which will be combined with a regionally coupled climate/dynamic model. In a first step we implement the forward coupling of precipitation patterns from the global climate model to the local erosion-topography evolution. In a second step, we push to implement the full feedback in the uplift-climate-erosion loop through concurrent runs of a Lagrangian Finite Element code for dynamic modelling and a regional climate-erosion model with an appropriate handshaking of feedback variables (rainfall-dynamic topography). The models will be validated against the quantitative data obtained from other RiftLink projects.