June 21, 2024

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Africa will split in two and will give rise to a new ocean |  Sciences

Africa will split in two and will give rise to a new ocean | Sciences

A crack in the surface over Kenya where the African Plates are breaking apart. Photo capture: YouTube

Of all the geological processes in progress, one of the most well-known geological processes occurs in Africa, where Underground crack 3,500 km long It splits the continent in two, which will end up creating a new ocean in the middle. around East African Rift, which began to form about 30 million years ago, due to the rupture of the African plate into two parts: the smaller Somali plate; and the larger Nubian plate.

Map showing the extent of the East African Rift, between the Nubian (left) and Somali (right) plates. The main active volcanoes in the area are also indicated. Photo: USGS

In this way, the rupture crosses several countries of the African continent (from south to north): Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Visible fracture

In much of the East African Rift, also known as rift valley, you can see giant cliffs, evidence of continental separation; and soil covered with igneous rocks due to the thinning of the lithosphere (a layer of tectonic plates) and the uplift of magma from the Earth’s mantle.

The strait formed in the East African Rift in Tanzania. Photo: Ulrich Döring

he volcanoes In the rupture is also reflected in the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the 16 km lava lake, which emanates from the Erta-Ale volcano in Ethiopia. Another “symptom” of the divergence process is activity frequent seismicity.

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In 2018, a kilometer-long crack opened on the roof Directly in the fault zone in southwestern Kenya (cover photo), causing a section of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse. Some geologists have linked this to plate separation, but other experts have suggested that the main cause is soil erosion from rain.

“There are still doubts about why it formed where it formed and whether its appearance is related to the current rift in East Africa,” said the geologist. Lucia Perez Diaza researcher at the University of Oxford, in an article by Conversation.

Division of Africa and the New Ocean

Like any geological process, the division of the African continent will take many millions of years. To get an idea of ​​how slow this process is, 2004 study It is estimated that the Somali and Nuba plates are diverging at a maximum rate 7 mm per year.

“The cracks are the first stage of a continental rift and, if successful, can lead to the formation of a continental rift New ocean basin. One example of a place on Earth where this happened is the South Atlantic Ocean, which resulted from the break-up of South America and Africa about 138 million years ago,” Perez-Diaz said.

Nineteenth century maps indicate how the Americas and Africa separated millions of years ago. Photo: Snider-Pellegrini/Wikimedia Commons

When the lithosphere in the rift zone finishes breaking, according to the specialist, the underlying magma will solidify and allow the formation of a new ocean in the space resulting from the separation of the plates.

It is estimated that the final new ocean will finish expanding along the entire rift in a period tens of millions of years.

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“As a result, the African continent will become smaller and there will be a large island in the Indian Ocean consisting of parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, including the Horn of Africa,” the researcher concluded.