A crack in the surface in the area of Kenya, where the African plates are pulled apart. Photo capture: YouTube
Among all ongoing geological processes, one of the most notable is the 3,500-kilometer-long subterranean rift in East Africa, which divides the continent into two parts, eventually emerging with a new ocean in the middle.
This rift, called East African, 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 greater Nubian plates.
Map showing the extent of the East African Rift between the Nubian (left) and Somali plates. The main active volcanoes in the region are also indicated. Image: USGS
In this way, the rupture passes through several regions of the African continent (from south to north): Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda. Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya and Ethiopia.
Much in the East African Rift, also known as the price of the price, you can see gigantic rocks, evidence of continental separation; and the soil covered with molar rocks due to the thinness of the lithosphere (tectonic debris) and the rise of magma from the Earth’s mantle.
A gorge formed in the East African Rift, in Tanzania. Photo: Ulrich Doering
Eruption volcanism is also reported in the eruptions of Mount Nyiragongo in the DRC and the 16 km lava lake emerging from the Erta-Ale volcano in Ethiopia. Another “symptom” of the divergence process is recurrent seismic activity.
In 2018, he constructed part of the Nairobi-Narok road, opening a kilometer-long crack in the surface right in the rift zone in southwestern Kenya (cover photo). Some geologists attributed it to the separation of the plates, but other experts pointed out that the main cause was soil erosion due to rain.
“Doubts remain as to why it formed where it did and whether its appearance is related to the ongoing African Rift,” said geologist Lucía Pérez Díaz, a researcher at the University of Oxford, in an article in The Conversation.
On the division of Africa and the new ocean
Like all geological processes, the division of the African continent will take several million years. To get an idea of how slow this process is, a 2004 study estimated that the Somali and Nubian plates are moving at a maximum rate of 7 million per year.
“They are the initial stages of continental breakup and, if done well, can lead to the formation of a new ocean basin. An example of a place on Earth where this happened is the South Atlantic Ocean, which resulted from the breakup of South America and Africa about 138 million years ago.” Pérez Díaz said.
When the lithosphere is finished in the area of separation, according to the expert, the underlying magma will solidify and allow the formation of a new ocean in the space created by the separation of the plates.
It is estimated that a new ocean will eventually form throughout the entire rift in a period of ten thousand years.
“Thus, the continent of Africa will become smaller and a large island in the Indian Ocean will be made up of parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, including the Horn of Africa,” the researcher concluded.