We use the ∼110-km long Bilila-Mtakataka fault in the amagmatic southern East African Rift, Malawi, to investigate the controls on early-rift geometry at the scale of a major border fault. Morphological variations along the 14 ± 8-m high scarp define six 10- to 40-km long segments, which are either foliation parallel or oblique to both foliation and the current regional extension direction. As the scarp is neither consistently parallel to foliation nor well oriented for the current regional extension direction, we suggest that the segmented surface expression is related to the local reactivation of well-oriented weak shallow fabrics above a broadly continuous structure at depth. Using a geometrical model, the geometry of the best fitting subsurface structure is consistent with the local strain field from recent seismicity. In conclusion, within this early-rift, preexisting weaknesses only locally control border fault geometry at subsurface.
- fault scarp
- normal fault