Volcanoes of the Tibesti massif (Chad, northern Africa)


The Tibesti massif, one of the most prominent features of the Sahara desert, covers an area of some 100,000 km2. Though largely absent from scientific inquiry for several decades, it is one of the world’s major volcanic provinces, and a key example of continental hot spot volcanism. The intense activity of the TVP began as early as the Oligocene, though the major products that mark its surface date from Lower Miocene to Quaternary (Furon (Geology of Africa. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh (trans 1963, orig French 1960), pp 1–377, 1963)); Gourgaud and Vincent (J Volcanol Geotherm Res 129:261–290, 2004). We present here a new and consistent analysis of each of the main components of the Tibesti Volcanic Province (TVP), based on examination of multispectral imagery and digital elevation data acquired from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). Our synthesis of these individual surveys shows that the TVP is made up of several shield volcanoes (up to 80 km diameter) with large-scale calderas, extensive lava plateaux and flow fields, widespread tephra deposits, and a highly varied structural relief. We compare morphometric characteristics of the major TVP structures with other hot spot volcanoes (the Hawaiian Islands, the Galápagos Islands, the Canary and Cape Verdes archipelagos, Jebel Marra (western Sudan), and Martian volcanoes), and consider the implications of differing tectonic setting (continental versus oceanic), the thickness and velocity of the lithosphere, the relative sizes of main volcanic features (e.g. summit calderas, steep slopes at summit regions), and the extent and diversity of volcanic features. These comparisons reveal morphologic similarities between volcanism in the Tibesti, the Galápagos, and Western Sudan but also some distinct features of the TVP. Additionally, we find that a relatively haphazard spatial development of the TVP has occurred, with volcanism initially appearing in the Central TVP and subsequently migrating to both the Eastern and Western TVP regions.

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We thank the ASTER team, and especially Elsa Abbott (NASA-JPL), for help and advice with the ASTER imagery and processing, and NASA’s EOSDIS for data and support. We are also grateful to Rob Jones and Kevin Lawless at RSI, UK, for their help in acquiring and servicing ENVI software and related modules. We are deeply grateful to Shan de Silva and David Crown for their invaluable comments and advice for revision of the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jason L. Permenter.

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Editorial responsibility: C. Kilburn

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ESM Fig. 1

a satellite view of the Emi Koussi composite volcano (19.83°N, 18.55 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002012902_105_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). Emi Koussi is the highest feature in the Tibesti and the entire Sahara desert, reaching an elevation of 3,394 m above sea level. Inset is a close-up of the Emi Koussi caldera system (∼9 × 12 km) b DEM-based topographic profile of the Emi Koussi nested caldera system, generated from the original ASTER image. The topographic step seen within the caldera system delineates the inner caldera boundary as the Era Kohor crater is approached from the northwest. Note the light-toned, carbonate-rich evaporite deposit on the floor of Era Kohor, located in the southeast portion of the inner caldera ((A) JPEG 87.1 kb) ((B) JPEG 60.4 kb)

ESM Fig. 2

aTarso Tieroko (20.77 °N, 17.87 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002022002-220_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B) b Tarso Toon (21.07 °N, 17.62 °E; image ID AST1B-00311212003092756_12022003120322; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B) cc/NOEhi Yéy (20.85 °N, 17.53 °E; image ID AST1B-00311212003092756_12022003120322; bands 3,2,1 as R,G,B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER images ((A)JPEG 71.0 kb) ((B)JPEG 58.8 kb) ((C)JPEG 59.7 kb)

ESM Fig. 3

aTarso Yega (20.66 °N, 17.42 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002020402_070_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B) bTarso Voon (20.92 °N, 17.27 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002020402_070_001; bands 3,2,1 as R,G,B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER images ((A)JPEG 64.8 kb)((B)JPEG 67.2 kb)

ESM Fig. 4

Nighttime thermal infrared image (ASTER band 13) showing Tarso Voon and the nearby Soborom dome (inset) on 4 February 2002. The bright pixelsbright pixels indicate elevated thermal activity relative to the surrounding region (accurate absolute temperatures have not yet been resolved). Pixel resolution within inset is 90 m. Image ID: pg-PR1B0000-2002020402_070_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B (JPEG 40.5 kb)

ESM Fig. 5

Tarso Abeki (21.00 °N, 16.99 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002070302_032_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER image (JPEG 68.6 kb)

ESM Fig. 6

aTarso Ourari (centred at 21.32 °N, 17.53 °E; image ID AST1B-00305202003093333_06122003122421; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B) bTarso Voon (20.92 °N, 17.27 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002020402_070_001; bands 3,2,1 as R,G,B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER images ((A)JPEG 68.5 kb) ((B)JPEG 68.7 kb)

ESM Fig. 7

Interpreted boundaries of the of pre-Toussidé nested caldera system. Note that the summit of the dark-toned Pic Toussidé lies just above the western obscured rim of the outer caldera. Trou au Natron, seen in the lower right, clearly dissects the original topographic rim of the outer caldera. Image ID AST1B-02132003093424_03112003191639; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B (JPEG 58.1 kb)

ESM Fig. 8

Trou au Natron (20.98 °N, 16.57 °E; image ID AST1B-02132003093424_03112003191639; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). The light-toned, sodium-rich deposits on the crater floor are clearly visible, as are several isolated dark-toned cones. Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER image (JPEG 60.6 kb)

ESM Fig. 9

aRelative emplacement sequence for discrete lava flows extruded from Pic Toussidé, discriminated using processed ASTER satellite imagery bTarso Voon (20.92 °N, 17.27 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2002020402_070_001; bands 3,2,1 as R,G,B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER images ((A)JPEG 94.8 kb) ((B)JPEG 44.9 kb)

ESM Fig. 10

aEhi Sosso (21.00 °N, 16.70 °E; image ID AST1B-02132003093424_03112003191639, bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B); bTimi (21.16 °N, 16.58 °E; image ID AST1B-02132003093424_03112003191639; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER images ((A)JPEG 63.2 kb) ((B)JPEG 58.8 kb)

ESM Fig. 11

Doon Kidimi (21.03 °N, 16.61 °E; image ID AST1B-02132003093424_03112003191639; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER image (JPEG 65.6 kb)

ESM Fig. 12

Tarso Tôh (centred at 21.38 °N, 16.39 °E; image ID pg-PR1B0000-2001111104_140_001; bands 3, 2, 1 as R, G, B). Topographic profile data are from DEMs generated from the original ASTER image (JPEG 87.2 kb)

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Permenter, J.L., Oppenheimer, C. Volcanoes of the Tibesti massif (Chad, northern Africa). Bull Volcanol 69, 609–626 (2007) doi:10.1007/s00445-006-0098-x

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  • Tibesti volcanic province
  • Tibesti massif
  • TVP
  • Continental hot spot
  • Chad
  • African geology