Angular velocities of Nubia and Somalia from continuous GPS data: implications on present-day relative kinematics
This study focuses on the break-up of the African tectonic plate into separate Nubian and Somalian blocks, based on recent Global Positioning System (GPS) data. A new, unique velocity field has been obtained by processing all available observations of permanent GPS stations on Africa since 1996. The quantity and distribution of the stations and the length of the time-series of observations exceed that of previous studies by a considerable margin, allowing one to derive a reliable estimate of the differential motion between the Nubia and Somalian plates, which are considered as a single (African) block in the prevailing global tectonic plate models. The estimated relative pole of rotation of Somalia with respect to Nubia is located at 54.8°S; 37.0°E with magnitude -0.069°/Ma, implying distinct opening in the Ethiopian Rift of magnitude ≈7 mm/year and azimuth ≈N94°E, whereas in southeastern South Africa this value is reduced to ≈2 mm/year in almost the same direction. This is in accordance with some of the independent geological and geophysical tectonic models of the Nubia-Somalia plate boundary region. However, the spatial density of the current tracking network is still not optimal to establish the exact location of the entire Somalia-Nubia plate boundary; in particular, the possible branch east of Lake Victoria and heading towards the Mozambique Channel is impossible to confirm or reject at this moment.