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Christopher A. Scholz

Christopher A. Scholz

Christopher A. Scholz

Professor: Paleolimnology and Rift Basin Evolution


Earth and Environmental Sciences
333B Heroy Geology Laboratory
Office: 315.443.4673


Energy and Its Impacts [ILM]
Environment, Sustainability, and Policy [ILM]


Social/Academic Links

Courses Taught

  • Sedimentary Basin Analysis
  • History of Earth and Life
  • Sedimentary Processes and Systems
  • Special Topics in Paleoclimatology
  • Earth Science of Energy
  • Special Topics in Extensional Tectonics
Research and Teaching Interests

My research focuses on recovering records of past climate from lake basins, and on the sedimentary basin analysis of extensional systems, with emphasis on lacustrine basins. Current research efforts are concentrated on the large lakes of tropical Africa, Oneida Lake & the Finger Lakes of Central New York, and Quaternary lake deposits in the Basin & Range province. Lake basins contain some of the highest quality archives of climate change on the continents, and new drill core records from the low-latitude lakes of Africa are revealing new details about the Pleistocene record of climate change.

The world's large rift valley lakes are outstanding laboratories for understanding the interaction of tectonic, climatic, and depositional processes, and are particularly useful for developing models for hydrocarbon exploration in ancient rift systems. These large, deep lakes contain thick accumulations of sediment dating back millions of years, and are among the best places on the continents for reconstructing past climates. Recent field programs have involved scientific drilling in tropical lake basins, the recovery of high-resolution sediment cores from lakes, and the imaging of sedimentary lake basins at various scales, using seismic reflection techniques. New research now underway considers the interactions of deep earth and surface processes in extensional environments.

Support for the research comes from the National Science Foundation and a consortium of oil and gas companies.

Five NSF Grants Fund Syracuse University Researchers’ Work with Cosmic Explorer

(Oct. 10, 2023)

Researchers from the University’s new Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Astrophysics are at the intellectual center of the next-generation observatory.

EES Professor Recognized by the Geological Society of America

(Nov. 15, 2022)

Professor Christopher Scholz received the 2022 Israel C. Russell Award for his contributions to research and teaching about lake basins.

Petroleum Experts to Donate MOVE Software Licenses to Syracuse

(Dec. 11, 2018)

Earth sciences department will use software, valued at $2.2 million, for geological modeling, structural analysis of Earth's interior

Geologists Publish New Details about Evolution of East African Rift Valley

(Dec. 21, 2016)

Christopher Scholz, Tannis McCartney G'17 co-author article based on Lake Malawi research

African Lake Hold Clues to Ancient Climate History

(Aug. 10, 2016)

SU scientists publish two papers in Nature journals

African Lake Provides Insight into Ancient Lake Levels, Biodiversity

(Dec. 7, 2015)

Earth sciences Ph.D. alumnus and Earth sciences professor are lead authors of new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Selected Publications

Hopper, E., Gaherty, J. B., Shillington, D. J., Accardo, N. J., Nyblade, A. A., Holtzman, B. K., Havlin, C., Scholz, C. A., Chindandali, P. R. N., Ferdinand, R. W., Mulibo, G. D. & Mbogoni, G., Preferential localized thinning of lithospheric mantle in the melt-poor Malawi Rift. Aug 1 2020, In : Nature Geoscience. 13, 8, p. 584-589

Christopher A. Scholz, Donna J. Shillington, Lachlan J.M. Wright, Natalie Accardo, James B. Gaherty, Patrick Chindandali; Intrarift fault fabric, segmentation, and basin evolution of the Lake Malawi (Nyasa) Rift, East Africa. Geosphere doi:

Wright, L. J. M., Muirhead, J. D., & Scholz, C. A. (2020). Spatiotemporal variations in upper crustal extension across the different basement terranes of the Lake Tanganyika Rift, East Africa. Tectonics, 39, e2019TC006019.

Shillington, D. J., Scholz, C. A., Chindandali, P. R. N., Gaherty, J. B., Accardo, N. J., Onyango, E., et al., (2020). Controls on rift faulting in the North Basin of the Malawi (Nyasa) Rift, East Africa. Tectonics, 39, e2019TC005633.

Zaremba NJ and Scholz, CA, 2019, High-resolution seismic stratigraphy of Late Pleistocene Glacial Lake Iroquois and its Holocene successor: Oneida Lake, New York, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 534, 109286,

DeMott, LM, Napieralski, SA, Junium, CK, Teece, M, and Scholz, CA, 2019, Microbially influenced lacustrine carbonates: A comparison of late Quaternary Lahontan tufa and modern thrombolite from Fayetteville Green Lake, NY, Geobiology, 00:1–20,

DeMott LM, Scholz CA and Junium CK, 2019, 8200-year growth history of a Lahontan-age lacustrine tufa deposit, Sedimentology, v. 66, pp. 2169–2190,

Muirhead, J.D., Wright, L.J.M., and Scholz, C.A., 2019, Rift evolution in regions of low magma input in East Africa, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 506 (2019) 332–346.

Morrissey, A, Scholz C.A., Russell, J.R., 2018, Late-Quaternary TEX86 paleotemperatures from the world’s largest desert lake, Lake Turkana, Kenya, J Paleolimnol (2018) 59:103–117.

Gan S.Q., and Scholz, C.A. 2017, Skew Normal Distribution Deconvolution Of Grain-Size Distribution And Its Application To 530 Samples From Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, Journal of Sedimentary Research, , v. 87, 1214–1225.

T. C. Johnson, J. P. Werne, E.T. Brown, A. Abbott, M. Berke, B. A. Steinman, J. Halbur, S. Contreras, S. Grosshuesch, A. Deino, C. A. Scholz, R P. Lyons, S. Schouten & J. S. Sinninghe Damsté, 2016, A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature19065

Wood, D.A., Scholz, C.A., 2016, Stratigraphic framework and lake level history of Lake Kivu, East African Rift, Journal of African Earth Sciences,

McCartney, T. and Scholz, C.A., 2016, A 1.3 million year record of synchronous faulting in the hangingwall and border fault of a half-graben in the Malawi (Nyasa) Rift, Journal of Structural Geology, v. 91, p. 114-129.

Lyons1, RP, Scholz, CA, and 9 others, 2015, Continuous 1.3-million-year record of East African hydroclimate, and implications for patterns of evolution and biodiversity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences v.112 (51) pp. 15568-15573.

Zhang, X. and Scholz C.A. 2015, Turbidite systems of lacustrine rift basins: Examples from the Lake Kivu and Lake Albert rifts, East Africa, Sedimentary Geology, v 325, pp. 177–191.

Wood, D.A., Zal, H.J.J., Scholz, C.A., Ebinger, C.J. and Nizere, I., 2015, Evolution of the Kivu Rift, East Africa: interplay, among tectonics, sedimentation and magmatism, 2015, Basin Research (2015) 1–14, doi: 10.1111/bre.12143, 1-14.

Hargrave, J.E., Hicks, M.K., Scholz, C.A., 2014 Lacustrine Carbonates From Lake Turkana, Kenya: A Depositional Model of Carbonates in an Extensional Basin, Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. 84, 224–237

Gan, S.Q., and Scholz, C.A., 2013, Extracting paleoclimate signals from sediment laminae: An automated 2-D image processing method, Computers & Geosciences, v. 52, pp. 345–355.

Karp, T., Scholz, C.A. and McGlue, M.M., 2012, Structure and stratigraphy of the Lake Albert Rift, East Africa: Observations from seismic reflection and gravity data, in O. W. Baganz, Y. Bartov, K. Bohacs, and D. Nummedal, eds., Lacustrine sandstone reservoirs and hydrocarbon systems: AAPG Memoir 95, p. 299 – 318.

Ebinger, C.E. and Scholz, C.A., 2012, Continental Rift Basins: The East African Perspective, in “Tectonics of Sedimentary Basins: Recent Advances, First Edition. Edited by Cathy Busby and Antonio Azor Perez, Chapter 9, pp 185-208. Published 2012 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Scholz ,C.A., Cohen, A.S., Johnson, T.C., King, J., Talbot, M.R., E.T. Brown, E.T., 2011,The Lake Malawi Scientific Drilling Project: An Overview, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 303, pp. 3-19.

Lyons, R.P., Scholz, C.A., Buoniconti, M.R., and Martin, M.R., 2011, Late Quaternary stratigraphic analysis of the Lake Malawi Rift, East Africa: an integration of drill-core and seismic reflection data, 2011, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 303, pp. 20-37.

Lyons, R.P., Kroll, C.N., and Scholz, C.A., 2011, An energy-balance hydrologic model for the Lake Malawi Rift Basin, East Africa, Global and Planetary Change, V. 75, Issues 1-2, pp. 83-97, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.10.010.

Lyons, R.P., Kroll, C.N., and Scholz, C.A., 2011, An energy-balance hydrologic model for the Lake Malawi Rift Basin, East Africa, Global and Planetary Change, V. 75, Issues 1-2, pp. 83-97, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.10.010.

Scholz, C.A., Johnson, T.C., Cohen, A.S., King, J.W., Peck, J., Overpeck, J.T., Talbot, M.R., Brown, E.T., Kalindekafe, L., Amoako, P.Y.O, Lyons, R.P, Shanahan, T.M., Castaneda, I.S., Heil, C.W., Forman, S.L., McHargue, L.R., Beuning, K.R., Gomez, J., and Pierson, J., 2007, East African megadroughts between 135-75 kyr ago and bearing on early-modern human origins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, pp.16416-16421.

Cohen, A.S., Stone, J., Beuning, K., Park, L., Reinthal, P., Dettman, D, Scholz, C.A., Johnson, T., King, J. W., Talbot, M., Brown, E., and Ivory, S., 2007, Ecological Consequences of Early Late-Pleistocene Megadroughts in Tropical Africa, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, , pp. 16422-16427.

Brown, E.T., Johnson, T.C., Scholz, C.A., Cohen, A.S. and King, J., 2007, Abrupt Change in Tropical African Climate Linked to the Bipolar Seesaw Over the Past 55,000 Years, Geophysical Research Letters, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 34, doi:10.1029/2007GL031240.

Karp, T., *Scholz, C.A., and McGlue, M.M., in press, Structure and Stratigraphy of the Lake Albert Rift, East Africa: Observations from Seismic Reflection and Gravity Data, in press in forthcoming AAPG Memoir - Lacustrine Sandstone Reservoirs. * corresponding author.

Scholz, C.A., Karp, T., and Lyons, R.P., 2007, Structure and Morphology of the Bosumtwi Impact Structure from Seismic Reflection Data, Meteoritics and Planetary Science, v. 42, pp. 549-560.

Shanahan, T.M., Overpeck, J.T., Scholz, C.A., Sharpe, E., and Arko, J., 2007, Simulating the response of a closed basin lake to recent climate and land-use changes in tropical West Africa (Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana), Hydrological Processes, v. 21, pp. 1678-1691.

McGlue, M.M., * Scholz , C.A. , Karp, T., Lezzar, K.E., and Ongodia, B., in press, Facies Architecture of Flexural Margin Lowstand Delta Deposits In Lake Edward, East African Rift: Constraints From Seismic Reflection Imaging, Journal of Sedimentary Research. * corresponding author

Lyons , R.P, * Scholz , C.A. , and Mullins, H.T., 2005, Seismic Stratigraphy of Skaneateles Lake: High-Resolution History of Lake Level, Paleoclimate, and Natural Hazards in Central New York , Northeastern Geology, in press. * corresponding author

Brooks, K., * Scholz, C.A. , King, J.W., Peck, J., Overpeck, J.T., Russell, J.M., and Amoako, P.Y.O., 2005, Late-Quaternary lowstands of Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana: evidence from high-resolution seismic reflection and sediment-core data, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 216, p. 235-249. * corresponding author

Peck, J.A., Green R.R., Shanahan, T., King, J., Overpeck, J.T., and Scholz, C.A. , 2004, Magnetic Mineral Record of Late Quaternary Tropical Climate Variability from Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 215, p. 37-57.

Scholz, C.A., King, J.W., Ellis, G.S., Swart, P.K., Stager, J.C. and Colman, S.M., 2003, Paleolimnology of Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, over the past 100 kYr, Journal of Paleolimnology, v. 30., pp. 139-150.

Scholz, C.A., Karp, T., Brooks, K.M., Milkereit, B., Amoako, P.Y.O., and Arko, J.A., 2002, Pronounced central uplift identified in the Bosumtwi Impact Structure, Ghana, using Multichannel Seismic Reflection Data, GEOLOGY, v. 30, no. 10, p. 939-942.

Lezzar, K.E., Tiercelin, J.-J., Le Turdu, C., Cohen, A.S., Reynolds, D.J., Le Gall, B., and Scholz, C.A. , 2002, Control of normal fault interaction on the distribution of major Neogene sedimentary depocenters, Lake Tanganyika, East African Rift, AAPG Bulletin, v. 86, p. 1027-1059.

Karp, T., Milkereit, B., Janle, P., Danuor, S.K., Pohl, J., Berckhemer, H., and Scholz, C.A. , 2002, Seismic Investigation of the Lake Bosumtwi Impact, Planetary and Space Science, Planetary and Space Science, Volume 50, p. 735-743.

Scholz , C.A. , 2001 , Applications of Seismic Sequence Stratigraphy in Lacustrine Basins, In W.M. Last and J.P. Smol (eds.), Tracking Environmental Changes in Lake Sediments : Physical and Chemical Techniques, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht , The Netherlands .

Cohen, A.S., Scholz, C. A., Johnson, T. C., 2000, The international decade of East African Lakes (IDEAL) drilling initiative for the African Great Lakes, Journal of Paleolimnology, 24, no. 2, 231-235.

Scholz , C.A . and D.R. Hutchinson, 2000. Stratigraphic and Structural Evolution of the Selenga Delta Accommodation Zone, Lake Baikal Rift, Siberia , International Journal of Earth Sciences (formerly Geologische Rundschau): The sedimentary record of climate and tectonics in continental rifts , guest editors: M. De Batist, D. Delvaux, M. Grachev, and J. Klerkx.

Soreghan, M.J., Scholz, C.A *., and Wells, J.T.,1999, Coarse-grained deep-water sedimentation along a border fault margin of Lake Malawi, Africa : Seismic Stratigraphic Analysis, Journal of Sedimentary Research, V. 69, p. 832-846. * corresponding author.

Wells, J.T., Scholz, C.A *, and Soreghan, M.J., 1999, Processes of sedimentation on a Lacustrine border fault margin: Interpretation of cores from Lake Malawi, East Africa . Journal of Sedimentary Research, V. 69, p. 816-831. * corresponding author.

Scholz, C.A ., Johnson T.C., Cattaneo P., Malinga H., and Shana S. 1998, Initial Results of 1995 IDEAL Seismic Reflection Survey of Lake Victoria, Uganda and Tanzanian, in Lehman, J.T.(ed.), Environmental Change and Response in East African Lakes, Kluwer Academic Press.

Scholz , C.A . , Moore T.C., Hutchinson , D.R., Klitgord, K.D. and, A.Ja. Golmshtok, 1998, Comparative Sequence Stratigraphy of Low-Latitude versus High-Latitude Lacustrine Rift Basins: Seismic Data Examples from the East African and Baikal Rifts, Paleaogeography, Paleaoclimatology, Paleaoecology, v. 140, pp. 401-420.

Johnson, T.C., Scholz, C.A. , Talbot, M.R., Kelts, K., Ricketts, R., Ngobi, G., Beuning, K., Ssemmanda, and McGill., J.A., 1996, Lake Pleistocene Desiccation of Lake Victoria and Rapid Evolution of Cichlid Fishes, SCIENCE, v. 273, p. 1091-1093.

Finney, B.P., Scholz, C.A. , and Johnson, T.C., 1996, Late-Quaternary lake level fluctuations in Lake Malawi, Africa, in phase with southern hemisphere insolation variations, in The Limnology, Climatology, and Paleoclimatology of the East African Rift Lakes . T.C. Johnson and E. Odata , editors.

Scholz , C.A. , 1995, Deltas of the Lake Malawi Rift, East Africa : Seismic Expression and Exploration Implications, AAPG BULLETIN, v. 79, p. 1679-1697.

Johnson, T.C., Wells, J.T., and Scholz, C.A. , 1995, Deltaic sedimentation in a modern rift lake, GSA Bulletin, v. 107, p. 812-829.

Scholz, C.A. , 1995, Seismic stratigraphy of an accommodation-zone-margin rift-lake delta, Lake Malawi, Africa, in Lambiase, J.J. (ed.) Hydrocarbon Habitat in Rift Basins , Geological Society of London Special Publication No. 80, p. 183-195.

Scholz C.A. and Finney, B.P., 1994, Late-Quaternary sequence stratigraphy of Lake Malawi (Nyasa), Africa , Sedimentology, v. 4 p. 173-179.

Wells, J.T., Scholz, C.A. , and Johnson, T.C., 1994, Highstand deltas of Lake Malawi, East Africa: Environments of deposition and processes of sedimentation, in A.J. Lomando, B.C. Schreiber, and P.M. Harris (eds.), Lacustrine Reservoirs and Depositional Systems: SEPM Core Workshop No. 19, p. 1-35.

Scholz , C.A. , Klitgord, K.D., ten Brink, U., Hutchinson , D.R., Golmshtok, A., and Moore , T.C., 1993, Results of multichannel seismic profiling of Lake Baikal , Siberia . EOS, v. 74, p. 465-470, October 11, 1993.

Scholz , C.A . , Johnson, T.C., and McGill, J., 1993. Deltaic sedimentation in a rift-valley lake: New seismic reflection data from Lake Malawi, (Nyasa), East Africa . GEOLOGY, v. 21, p. 395-398.

Cohen, A.S., Soreghan, M., and Scholz , C.A . , 1993. Estimating the age of formation of lakes: An example from Lake Tanganyika , East African Rift system. GEOLOGY, v. 21, p. 511-514.

Halfman, J.D. and Scholz , C.A . , 1993. Suspended sediments in Lake Malawi, Africa : A reconnaissance study. Journal of Great Lakes Research, v. 19(3), p. 499-511.

Hutchinson D.H., Golmshtok, A.J., Zonenshain, L.P., Moore , T.C., Scholz , C.A . and Klitgord, K.D., 1992. Depositional and tectonic framework of the rift basins of Lake Baikal from multichannel seismic data. GEOLOGY, v. 20, p. 589-592.

Scholz, C.A , Rosendahl, B.R., Versfelt, J. and Rach, N., 1990. Results of Echo-sounding of Lake Victoria . Journal of African Earth Sciences, v. 11, p.25-32.

Scholz , C.A . and Rosendahl, B.R. Coarse-clastic facies and stratigraphic sequence models from Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika , East Africa , 1990. In Lacustrine Basin Exploration: Case studies and modern analogues , (B.J. Katz, Ed.) AAPG Memoir 50, Tulsa , p. 151-167.

Scholz , C.A. , Rosendahl, B.R. and Scott, D.L. 1990. Development of Coarse-grained Facies in Lacustrine Rift Systems: Examples from East Africa . GEOLOGY, v. 18, pp. 140-144. Tiercelin, J.-J., Scholz , C.A. , Mondeguer, A., Rosendahl, B.R., and Ravenne, C., 1989. Discontinuites sismiques et sedimentaires dans la serie de remplissage du fosse du Tanganyika, Rift Est Africain, [Seismic and sedimentary discontinuities in the Lake Tanganyika Rift, East Africa], Comptes Rendus Acad. Sci., Paris, t. 309, p. 1599-1606.

Scholz , C.A. , Rosendahl, B.R., Versfelt, J., Kaczmarick, K.J, and Woods, L.D., 1989. Seismic Atlas of Lake Malawi, Project PROBE, Duke University , 116 p.

Scholz , C.A. and Rosendahl, B.R. 1988. Low Lake Stands in Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika , East Africa , Delineated with Multifold Seismic Data. SCIENCE, V. 240, pp. 1645-1648.0

Rosendahl, B.R., Versfelt J., Scholz , C.A. and Woods, L.D. 1988. Seismic Atlas of Lake Tanganyika, Project PROBE, Duke University .


Sedimentology/Geochemistry Equipment:
-Beckman-Coulter Automated Grain Size Analyzer: Model LS230
-COSTECH Elemental Analyzer, connected to Finnigan MAT 252 stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer w/ continuous flow device
-Walk-in core storage facilities
-Complete sedimentology facility (granulometry/textural/compositional studies; smear slide analysis, coulometry studies; XRD; etc)
-Sediment x-radiography imaging and core epoxy impregnation systems
-Major Seismic Laboratory Equipment:
-Complete seismic processing and interpretation facility (Syracuse University is a Landmark University Partner)
(consists of dual-head LINUX/PROMAX processing workstations and LANDMARK SEISWORKS/CAEX interpretation workstations, HP DesignJet Plotter; desktop mapping/GIS workstations 18 kW UPS backup power in seismic analysis lab, assorted tape drives including AIT, 3480, 8 mm, 4 mm tape drives)
-Chesapeake Technologies Sidescan Sonar Mosaic Workstation
-Assorted ARCGIS workstations

Major Field Equipment:
-48 Ch 1200 m Digital Hydroscience Technologies MCS streamer & acquisition system
-48 Ch. 600 m Analog ITI Stealth array seismic streamer
-OYO DAS-1 48-channel, Digital Seismic acquisition system
-Chesapeak high-resolution seismic acquisition system
-ELICS Delph2 high-res seismic/side-scan sonar acquisition system
-Assorted airgun arrays, including BOLT, I/O sleeve guns
-Two diesel-powered seismic air compressors (65 SCFM total)
-ITI ST-5 single channel streamer
-Teledyne 24 channel hi-res streamer (150 m, 300 m active sections)
-Rossfelder deepwater electric vibracoring system (1200 m working depth)
-Assorted single-channel seismic streamers
-Portable diesel generators
-2 Trimble AG132 Differential GPS systems
-Assorted portable GPS receivers
-Assorted field communications equipment including Iridium satellite phones with data link, assorted VHF radios etc
-40' modular research catamaran with VHF radios, radar, 11' rigid-body inflatable boat
-Edgetech CHIRP high resolution seismic system
-Geopulse 1 kHz Boomer Seismic System
-Knudsen 28 kHz Portable Digital Echosounder
-Knudsen 200/200kHz Portable Sidescan Sonar System
-Portable diesel-driven hydraulic power pack
-Portable Seamac hydraulic-powered coring winch
-Assorted grab samplers, and lightweight coring systems
-Portable fabrication workshop with welders and assorted power tools