A new ocean is being formed as the African continent is being divided in half, according to geologists. An international study has determined that a 35-mile-long rift that formed in the Far region’s Ethiopian deserts in 2005 is likely the beginning of a brand-new sea.
The most recent research, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, combines seismic data from the rift creation to show that it is driven by processes that are comparable to those at the ocean’s bottom. Africa’s and Arabia’s tectonic plates intersect in the desert and have been slowly drifting apart for roughly 30 million years. The Red Sea has also been split by the same motion, although only at a rate of a few thousandths of an inch per second.
According to Kenya Broadcasting Cooperative (KBC), many people have voiced alarm at the idea of a new ocean possibly developing in Africa. Perhaps, an ocean is emerging along the eastern arm of the African Rift Valley, according to Dr. Edwin Dindi of the Department of Geology in the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Nairobi.
He continues, “It will take a long time, maybe millions of years for such event to happen. The Eastern arm of the Rift Valley is fairly active, as seen by the many tremors that occur around it.
According to geologists, the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago. The continental shelf started building when the melting rocks beneath the world’s surface pushed through the columns on to the earth, establishing the supercontinent, 3.2 billion years ago, followed by the formation of the continental crust.
The tectonic plates are in a state of flux, according to Dindi in an interview with the Department of Geology, with some shifting against one another along fault zones, some collapsing beneath one another, and others crashing into one another and tearing apart from one another at divergent plate boundaries. The continents we know today—Africa, South America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia—were formed as a result of this motion.
Dindi claims that the East African Rift Valley, which is still active and growing and may lead to the construction of a new ocean in Africa, was likewise formed as a result of the continual motion within the continental crust.
The thickness around the rift valley has decreased from 40 kilometers to 35 kilometers over the course of more than 30 million years, so it will take many more years to lose another 5 kilometers, says Dindi. “But this will not happen immediately; it is something that will happen millions of years to come,” she adds.
The rift valley that had started to form around Wajir in the North Eastern region of Kenya “failed and the area was instead covered with sediments,” says Dindi, adding that “today when you travel across Wajir you can only see the depression but not a rift valley.” Dindi notes that not all rift valleys form to the state of the current ones; they tend to fail.
One of the largest rifts on Earth’s surface, the East African Rift Valley, also known as the Afro-Arabian Rift Valley, runs from Jordan in southwestern Asia south through eastern Africa to Mozambique.
The system is typically 48 to 64 kilometers wide and around 6,400 kilometers long.
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