“The Kenyan Rift volcanoes are part of a larger Great Rift Valley complex that extends all the way from Mozambique to Djibouti; their presence in East Africa attests to the presence of magma reservoirs within the Earth’s crust,” said Lead Author Dr. Juliet Biggs, Rosenstiel Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Miami. “Our study detected signs of activity in only four of the 11 volcanoes in the area -- Suswa, Menengai, Longonot and Paka -- all within the borders of Kenya.”
“The fact that these areas are so close to a major metropolitan area pose a challenge in terms of a large volcanic or seismic event” says co-author Cindy Ebinger. Suswa, Menengai and Longonot are all located in densely populated areas within 100 km of Nairoibi.
The study also provides insight as to the geothermal potential of the region. Kenya was the first African country to build geothermal energy plants to generate this renewable, environmentally friendly alternative to coal and oil. The impact of harnessing such a resource could provide an important economic engine for the region.
Geothermal energy is generated by drilling deep holes into the Earth’s crust, pumping cold water through one end so by the time it resurfaces it is steam, which is then used to fuel a turbine, which in turn drives a generator, and creates power.
“This study demonstrates the potential for using InSAR to measure active magmatic and tectonic phenomena in Africa, allowing us to watch the processes by which continents break apart” says lead author Juliet Biggs, who has just begun a 2-year project at the University of Oxford, funded by the European Space Agency, to map the pattern of volcanic activity, dike intrusion and active faulting along the whole of the East African Rift.
Barbra Gonzalez | RSMAS Miami
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