Welcome to CRYSTALS [Continental Rift Dynamics Across The Scales]

The Turkana depression in the East African Rift connects the Main Ethiopian Rift to the north with the Kenya rift in the south. The numerical model elucidates the along-axis transition from narrow rifting in Ethiopia and Kenya to a distributed deformation within the Turkana depression. Read more here.

Rifts provide a unique window into the geodynamic system of our planet and the processes that shape the surface of the Earth. This project aims at a thorough understanding of continental rift dynamics and rifted margin formation by means of a comprehensive multi-scale numerical modelling design. 

CRYSTALS is a Helmholtz Young Investigators Group funded for 5 years from 2016 to 2021 bridging GFZ's Section 2.5 "Geodynamic Modeling" and the Institute of Earth and Environmental Science of the University of Potsdam.



Recent animations:

Rift velocity evolution during separation of South America from Africa. The abrupt speed-up of South America is due to a cross-scale effect: the non-linear decay of rift strength. The abrupt rift weakening results from non-Newtonian rheology and brittle failure of the materials that constitute Earth's lithosphere. Read more here.


Numerical model of continental rifting and breakup between Brazil and Angola. Weak crust generates a wide rift before rift migration leads to the formation of a very asymmetric margin pair. Read more here.

The video shows a numerical experiment where a roughly square-centimetre-sized sample of polymineralic material is compressed. Numerical experiments like this help to understand the transient localisation dynamics within polymineralic materials and to benchmark numerical parameters for further use in large-scale geodynamic modelling. Read more here.


August 2017 - Paper published:  Brune, S., Corti, G., and Ranalli, G. Controls of inherited lithospheric heterogeneity on rift linkage: Numerical and analogue models of interaction between the Kenyan and Ethiopian rifts across the Turkana depression: Tectonics, p. 2017TC004739, doi: 10.1002/2017TC004739.

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April 2017: We welcome our new team member Anne Glerum.

March 2017 - Discussion paper published: Rubey, M., Brune, S., Heine, C., Davies, D.R., Williams, S.E., Müller, R.D.: Global patterns of Earth's dynamic topography since the Jurassic. Solid Earth Discussions, doi:10.5194/se-2017-26.

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March 2017 - Successful HPC Proposal: Structures and Dynamics of Continental Rift Systems. PIs: Sascha Brune, Stephan Sobolev. Grant Volume: 2,000,000 CPU hours on HLRN cluster (equivalent to € 52,000).

January 2017 - Paper published: Yuan, X., Heit, B., Brune, S., Steinberger, B., Geissler W.H., Jokat, W., Weber, M., Seismic structure of the lithosphere beneath NW Namibia: Impact of the Tristan da Cunha mantle plume. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, doi: 10.1002/2016GC006645.

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December 2016 - New project funded: Linking continental breakup dynamics to climate changes. By means of a joint DAAD-UA travel grant this study will correlate rift length with paleo-atmospheric CO2 content.
Australian Collaborators: Simon Williams and Dietmar Müller (EarthByte Group, Sydney)

October 2016 - Book Chapter published: Brune, S.: Rifts and rifted margins: A review of geodynamic processes and natural hazards. Invited Review Paper in AGU Geophysical Monograph, 219 “Plate Boundaries and Natural Hazards”, Duarte and Schellart  (Eds.), AGU/Wiley Publishing.

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 October 2016 - Paper published: Brune, S., Heine, C., Clift, P.D., and Pérez-Gussinyé, M., 2016, Rifted margin architecture and crustal rheology: Reviewing Iberia-Newfoundland, central South Atlantic, and South China sea: Marine and Petroleum Geology, doi: 10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2016.10.018.

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August 2016 - Paper published: Díaz-Azpiroz, M., Brune, S., Leever, K. A., Fernández, C., Czeck, D. M., 2016, Tectonics of oblique plate boundary systems, Tectonophysics, doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2016.07.028.

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August 2016 - Paper published: Cyprych, D., Brune, S., Piazolo, S., Quinteros, J.: Strain localization in polycrystalline material with second phase particles: Numerical modeling with application to ice mixtures: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, doi:10.1002/2016GC006471.

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July 2016: Paper published. Brune, S., Williams, S.E., Butterworth, N.P., Müller, R.D.: Abrupt plate accelerations shape rifted continental margins: Nature, 536 (7615), 201–204, doi:10.1038/nature18319.  

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