Surface cracks in the area of Kenya where the African plates are separating. Photography: YouTube
Of all the geological processes going on, one of the worst is taking place in Africa 3,500 km long underground fissure This split the continent in two, creating a new ocean in the middle. about this East African Rift, which began to form about 30 million years ago, due to the breakup of the African plate into two parts: the smaller Somali plate; and the Great Nubian Plate.
Map showing the extent of the East African rift between the Nubian (left) and Somali (right) plates. Major active volcanoes in the region are also indicated. Image: USGS
In this way, the rupture crosses several countries of the African continent (from south to north): Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and Ethiopia.
Studies called Rift Valley They indicate that there is a column of material below the Earth’s mantle exerting upward pressure, where the lithosphere (the layer of tectonic plates) is located, creating its weakening, stretching and subsequent deformation.
In most cases Rift Valley Colossal rocks can be seen, evidence of continental breakup; and soils covered by volcanic rocks as the lithosphere thins and magma rises from the mantle.
The valley was formed along the East African Rift in Tanzania. Photo: Ulrich Turing
He Volcano This deformation is also reflected in the eruptions of Mount Nyirakongo in the DRC and the 16 km volcanic lake that erupts from the Erda-Ale volcano in Ethiopia. Another ‘indicator’ of a divergent process is activity Repeated earthquakes.
In 2018, a kilometer-long crack opened to the surface Right (cover image), part of the Nairobi-Narok highway has collapsed in the rift zone in southwestern Kenya. Some geologists attributed it to the separation of plates, but other experts pointed to soil erosion due to rainfall as the main cause.
“There is doubt as to why it originated where and whether its origin is related to the ongoing East African rift,” the geologist said. Lucia Perez DiazOxford University researcher, in an essay Conversation.
Africa and the New Seas Division
Like any geological process, the division of the African continent took millions of years. To know how slow this process is, A 2004 study The Somali and Nubian plates are estimated to be separating at the highest rate 7 millimeters per year.
“Rifts are the initial stage of a continental rift and, if successful, lead to formation. A new ocean basin. “An example of a place on Earth where this happened is the South Atlantic Ocean, which resulted from the separation of South America and Africa 138 million years ago,” said Pérez Díaz.
19th century maps show how the Americas and Africa separated millions of years ago. Image: Snyder-Pellegrini / Wikimedia Commons
Once the lithosphere in the rift zone finishes breaking apart, experts say, the underlying magma will solidify, allowing a new ocean to form in space by separating the plates.
It is estimated that eventually the new ocean will eventually expand to include the entire rift Thousands of years.
“As a result, the African continent will become smaller, and there will be a large island in the Indian Ocean composed of parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, including the Horn of Africa,” the researcher concluded.
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