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Christopher Scholz

Christopher Scholz

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“The lakes of Africa’s Great Rift Valley are among the world’s great natural laboratories. They are the sites of significant hydrocarbon resources and they sit within the best modern example of a continent undergoing tectonic break-up.

“My research focuses on recovering records of past climate from lake basins, and on the sedimentary basin analysis of extensional system – with emphasis on lacustrine basins.”

Christopher Scholz is a professor of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. His research focus is the evolution of continental rift basins and the sedimentary fill of large lacustrine systems.

For the past 30 years, Scholz has undertaken studies of many large lakes and active rifts around the world, including most of the large lakes of Africa, Lake Baikal (Siberia) and the North American Great Lakes. He also studies the paleoclimate record of tropical Africa over time frames of several thousand to several million years.

His work is providing the environmental background to hominid evolution, migrations and population changes, mainly from studies of the sediments found on the bottom of the largest lakes in Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

 

Video Presentation

Abstracts

  • 41243 Exploration activity in lacustrine basins in extensional settings has accelerated in recent years with important discoveries in the South Atlantic Ocean and in East Africa. This presentation reviews reservoir facies in lacustrine-rifts including siliciclastic deposits, mixed siliciclastic-carbonate systems, as well as lacustrine carbonates, as observed in different systems in East Africa. Lacustrine extensional basins are characteristically dominated by siliciclastic deposits, on account of the high-relief on faulted rift margins, and associated deep-basin subsidence. Source rock facies in lake systems are shown to vary dramatically in space and time, based on studies of modern lake basins as well as ancient high-resolution records revealed through scientific drilling. This presentation offers data-intensive perspectives of extant lake basins in both the western and eastern branches of Africa's Great Rift Valley. Hydrocarbon Systems in Extensional Settings: Insights from Scientific Drilling in East Africa http://www.aapg.org/career/training/in-person/distinguished-lecturer/abstract/Articleid/41243/hydrocarbon-systems-in-extensional-settings-insights-from-scientific-drilling-in-east-africa
    Hydrocarbon Systems in Extensional Settings: Insights from Scientific Drilling in East Africa
  • 41244 Continental rifts have long been important for hosting lacustrine source rocks in many hydrocarbon provinces, and in recent years rifts have seen accelerated exploration for syn-rift reservoirs. The application of sequence stratigraphy to rift-lake systems requires special consideration, in light of 1) heightened and spatially variable subsidence accompanying normal faulting; and 2) sensitive lake levels driven by climatic shifts over geological time scales. This presentation provides examples of sequence stratigraphy applied to rift-lake systems, especially considering the roles of rift segmentation, magmatism (or lack thereof), and varying continental hydroclimates. The wide geochemical variability of lake systems in rifts is in part driven by the different styles of magmatism observed in different extensional environments, which influences the occurrences of lacustrine carbonates. Predictive models of siliciclastic reservoir facies in extensional basins are grounded in our understanding of structural controls of drainage systems. Stacking patterns and lithofacies variability are commonly complicated by climatic processes. Many tropical lakes are hypersensitive to changing evaporation-precipitation ratios, and therefore lake level changes are amplified through subtle changes in climate. Accordingly, lake level shifts in many tropical basins are dramatic, with documented changes of hundreds of meters over timeframes of a few thousand years. This presentation includes extensive overviews of nested seismic reflection data sets, ranging in scope from high-resolution data to basin- and crustal-scale imagery. Magmatic Versus Amagmatic Continental Extension, and the Sedimentary Sequence Architecture of Rifts http://www.aapg.org/career/training/in-person/distinguished-lecturer/abstract/Articleid/41244/magmatic-versus-amagmatic-continental-extension-and-the-sedimentary-sequence-architecture-of-rifts
    Magmatic Versus Amagmatic Continental Extension, and the Sedimentary Sequence Architecture of Rifts
  • 41245 Scientific drill cores from Lake Malawi provide the first continuous and high-resolution 1.2 million-year terrestrial record of past climates in East Africa. The multi-proxy climate signals extracted from these lake sediments reveal remarkable high-frequency and high-amplitude variability in effective moisture over this major southern hemisphere catchment. The level of Lake Malawi dropped more than 400 m at least 25 times over the past 1.2 million years, substantially impacting endemic organisms in the lake, and implying significant landscape variability over this time interval. This presentation provides an overview of the Lake Malawi Scientific Drilling Project, including basin framework seismic images from this enormous ultra-deep rift lake. This work and subsequent East Africa drilling studies are providing the environmental context for the origin of our own species. Mountains, Monsoons and Migrations: Rift Tectonics, Tropical Climates and the Origin of Humans http://www.aapg.org/career/training/in-person/distinguished-lecturer/abstract/Articleid/41245/mountains-monsoons-and-migrations-rift-tectonics-tropical-climates-and-the-origin-of-humans
    Mountains, Monsoons and Migrations: Rift Tectonics, Tropical Climates and the Origin of Humans