Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Evidence from high resolution topography for multiple earthquakes on high slip-to-length fault scarps: the Bilila-Mtakataka fault, Malawi

Hodge, Michael, Biggs, Juliet, Fagereng, Ake, Mdala, H., Wedmore, L. and Williams, Jack 2020. Evidence from high resolution topography for multiple earthquakes on high slip-to-length fault scarps: the Bilila-Mtakataka fault, Malawi. Tectonics 39 (2) , e2019TC005933. 10.1029/2019TC005933

[thumbnail of Hodge et al 2020 - Tectonics in press.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Download (21MB) | Preview


Geomorphological features such as fault scarps and stream knickpoints are indicators of recent fault activity. Determining whether these features formed during a single earthquake or over multiple earthquakes cycles has important implications for the interpretation of the size and frequency of past events. Here, we focus on the Bilila‐Mtakataka fault, Malawi, where the 20 m high fault scarps exceed the height expected from a single earthquake rupture. We use a high resolution digital elevation model (< 1 m) to identify complexity in the fault scarp and knickpoints in river profiles. Of 39 selected scarp profiles, 20 showed evidence of either multi‐scarps or composite scarps and of the seven selected river and stream profiles, five showed evidence for multiple knickpoints. A near uniform distribution of vertical offsets on the sub‐scarps suggests they were formed by separate earthquakes. These independent methods agree that at least two earthquakes have occurred with an average vertical offset per event of 10 and 12 m. This contrasts earlier studies which proposed that this scarp formed during a single event, and demonstrates the importance of high‐resolution topographic data for understanding tectonic geomorphology. We use a one‐dimensional diffusion model of scarp degradation to demonstrate how fault splays form multi‐scarps and estimate the diffusion age κt of the Bilila‐Mtakataka fault scarp to be 48 ± m25 m2, corresponding to 6400 ± 4000 years since formation. We calculate that a continuous rupture would equate to a MW 7.8 ± 0.3 earthquake, greater than the largest seismic event previously recorded in East Africa.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: American Geophysical Union
ISSN: 0278-7407
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 December 2019
Date of Acceptance: 17 December 2019
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 16:50

Citation Data

Cited 10 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics