Depositional history of Lake Chala (Mt. Kilimanjaro, equatorial East Africa) from high-resolution seismic stratigraphy

Aihemaiti Maitituerdi, Maarten Van Daele, Dirk Verschuren, Marc De Batist, Nicolas Waldmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sediments deposited in Lake Chala (Kenya/Tanzania) constitute a high-resolution archive of past climate and environmental change in equatorial East Africa spanning two glacial-interglacial cycles. To correctly interpret the proxy records it contains, it is crucial to understand the evolution of lacustrine sedimentation in this volcanic crater basin. Building on previous seismic stratigraphic analysis by Moernaut et al. (2010) of a dense grid of 37 km high-resolution seismic reflection profiles with up to 270 ms two-way travel time (ca. 210 m depth) of sub-bottom penetration, this study presents a seismic-based reconstruction of the complete depositional history of Lake Chala as well as a first-order age model for the major documented stages in lake evolution. The seismic stratigraphic sequence comprises 16 distinct and finely-stratified units (U1-U16, youngest to oldest), grouped into five major depositional stages. Stage I (U16, ca. 249-212 ka) marks the initiation of sedimentation in an originally ring-shaped depositional area surrounding two central tuff cones emerging from the basin floor. Stage II (U15-U12, ca. 212-114 ka) represents the onset of basinwide sedimentation above the tuff cones, implying a gradual rise in lake depth and shift to more strictly hemipelagic sedimentation. Stage III (U11-U8, ca. 114-97 ka) represents the development of a relatively flat lake floor during a period of significantly reduced lake depth. Stage IV (U7-U4, ca. 97–20.5 ka) is again characterized by largely undisturbed hemipelagic sedimentation under mostly high lake-depth conditions. Stage V (U3-U1, 20.5 ka BP to Present) represents the establishment of the present-day, very broad and flat basin floor under fluctuating lake level. Reassessing the Moernaut et al. (2010) suggestion of a minor disconformity at ca. 100 m sub-bottom depth, we here interpret this seismic feature as a thick turbidite related to a mass wasting event. Consequently we can affirm continuity of lacustrine sedimentation in the depocenter of Lake Chala throughout the past ca. 250,000 years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104499
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • DeepCHALLA
  • East africa
  • Lake chala
  • Lake-level reconstruction
  • Mt. kilimanjaro
  • Seismic stratigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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