The uplift of the world’s highest rift mountains: The Rwenzori’s in Uganda, East African Rift system

This project looks at uplift processes in extensional settings, thereby creating an innovative new research field bridging between tectonics and global climate change. The >5,000 m high Rwenzori Mountains just north of the equator in the Ugandan part of the East African Rift are the most extreme expression of uplift in an extensional setting on Earth. Because of the high altitude the Rwenzori Mountains are the only uplifted basement block in Africa that is glaciated and provide evidence for glaciations in the past. The glaciations in the Rwenzori Mountains are extremely important for understanding global climate changes because they are one of the very few examples for glaciations in equatorial regions. Equilibrium Line Altitude reductions on tropical mountains worldwide suggest significant cooling during the last ice age, that is consistent with mid-latitude estimates, but not with inferred cooling from adjacent tropical oceans. Resolving this discrepancy is an ongoing major issue in palaeoclimatology because the discrepancy is problematic when global circulation patterns are being reconstructed. The Rwenzori Mountains are critical to understanding long-term system responses. We also explore the feedback between glaciations and extreme uplift of the Rwenzori Mountains.