February 27, 2024

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Continental Divide. Is Africa breaking up?

Continental Divide.  Is Africa breaking up?
The tectonic activity that created the African Rift Valley weakened the Earth’s crust along its boundaries. Hence the region is volcanic and seismically active. There is Mount Kilimanjaro. A part of it.

G. Lacz/IMAGO/image broker

The Great Rift Valley widens by about two and a half centimeters every year. The continent may break in two. Geologists have now discovered what caused this split.

No time? Blue news in a nutshell for you

  • The Great Rift Valley is widening every year.
  • Scientists have now confirmed the theory that magma flows beneath the Earth’s crust.
  • The African continent will one day break apart.

In 2005, the Earth opened a 50-kilometer-long fissure in the Ethiopian desert, and in 2018, another fissure was discovered in Kenya: it was 15 meters deep, 20 meters wide, and several kilometers long. These are the effects of the Great Rift Valley across the continent and they have been increasing on Earth’s surface in recent years.

Tectonic plates, which are separate pieces of the Earth’s crust, are in constant motion. They rub and press against each other creating enormous tension forces.

Over the past 20 to 30 million years, this has led to the Great African Rift Valley creating a valley 30 to 100 kilometers wide across the African continent. It stretches for 6000 kilometers from the Red Sea to Mozambique. Fractures reach depths of a few hundred to several thousand meters.

East Africa may split off and become a giant island

As the plates push against each other, the eastern part of Africa will eventually break apart. Somalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and half of Kenya would form a large island off the rest of Africa.

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The route of the Great African Rift Valley.
The route of the Great African Rift Valley.

Wikimedia Commons/Semhur, translated by NordNordWest/CC

Geologists have known for a long time that the African plate was going to break apart, but further instigating the rift is not exactly right.

New Computer model calculations Scientists at the American University of Virginia Tech are now confirming the theory that this is due to the so-called African “super plume” under the Earth’s crust along with part of the trench.

It is a crust of very hot rock that rises up from the deepest parts of the earth’s crust and presses against the earth’s crust from below. The world’s largest super plume bubbles under the African Rift Valley, also fueling volcanic activity in the region.

Scientists calculate that it would take a few million years for a new continent to separate from Africa – a blink of an eye in Earth’s history.