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The Luangwa Rift active fault database and fault reactivation along the southwestern branch of the East African Rift

Wedmore, Luke N.J., Turner, Tess, Biggs, Juliet, Williams, Jack ORCID:, Sichingabula, Henry M., Kambula, Christine and Banda, Kawawa 2022. The Luangwa Rift active fault database and fault reactivation along the southwestern branch of the East African Rift. [Online]. Online: EGUsphere. Available at:

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Seismic hazard assessment in slow straining regions is challenging because earthquake catalogues only record events from approximately the last 100 years, whereas earthquake recurrence times on individual faults can exceed 1,000 years. Systematic mapping of active faults allows fault sources to be used within probabilistic seismic hazard assessment, which overcomes the problems of short-term earthquake records. We use Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data to analyse surface deformation in the Luangwa Rift in Zambia and develop the Luangwa Rift Active Fault Database (LRAFD). The LRAFD is an open-source geospatial database containing active fault traces and their attributes and is freely available at: We identified 18 faults that display evidence for Quaternary activity and empirical relationships suggest that these faults could cause earthquakes up to Mw 8.1, which would exceed the magnitude of historically recorded events in southern Africa. On the four most prominent faults, the median height of Late Quaternary fault scarps varies between 12.9 ± 0.4 and 19.2 ± 0.9 m, which suggests they were formed by multiple earthquakes. Deformation is focused on the edges of the Luangwa Rift: the most prominent Late Quaternary fault scarps occur along the 207 km long Chipola and 142 km long Molaza faults, which are the rift border faults and the longest faults in the region. We associate the scarp on the Molaza Fault with possible surface ruptures from two 20th Century earthquakes. Thus, the LRAFD reveals new insights into active faulting in southern Africa and presents a framework for evaluating future seismic hazard.

Item Type: Website Content
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: EGUsphere
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 November 2022
Date of Acceptance: 13 September 2022
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2022 11:00

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