Is Africa splitting in two? Understand the ongoing ‘phenomenon’

posted on 8/3/2023 20:54

A rift that appeared in Kenya in 2018 reminded locals of the movement happening on the African continent – (credit: Youtube/Reproduction)

Earth may, in the future, have more than six continents: Africa has split into two large rock masses. The discovery in 2005 of an extensive rift in Vale da Fenda, which widens every year, revealed to local geographers that a new ocean would appear in the place and separate the two rock masses once and for all. But what drives this colossal change in proportion?

According to Geology Doctor and Professor of the Department of Geology at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Nairobi Edwin Dindi, the separation is caused by the movements caused by the friction of the tectonic plates, a movement that marks the area called the Great Rift Valley or Rift Valley.

“The plates are in a flow of motion, some are moving against each other along the fault zones and there is still movement causing more faults to form,” the professor told the African newspaper. The New Times on February 20 of this year.

The Rift Valley has an extension of 6,400 kilometers and stretches from Jordan, in southwest Asia, to central Mozambique, further south in Africa — on the African continent, the rift begins in the north of Ethiopia. The process of separation is seen in greater detail in what geographers call East Africa, a region formed by Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

  • The sides of the continents bisected by the Rift Valley have been named the Nubian Plate (longer side, left) and the Somali Plate (smaller, left).

  • The image shows what the new continents will look like after Africa splits up

With the naked eye it is already possible to observe the displacement of a small part of Africa, called by experts as the Somali Plate, from the corresponding part of a larger extent, called the Somali Plate. The opening in the visible part of the Earth and the separation of the continent itself occurs through the rise of magma jets from the interior of the planet, which cause the Earth’s crust to thin until it ends up rifting.

In 2018, a large rupture appeared in Kenya and even put drivers passing through the area at risk. Despite being caused by heavy rainfall in the area, the crater demonstrates, according to geologists, the weaknesses of the region, located near the Vale da Fenda – further evidence that separation from the continent is an inevitable path.

The same frictional movement of tectonic plates, slowly in Africa, was responsible for the formation of the continents we know today after the breakup of Pangea, the supercontinent that caused the Earth to split into six rocky masses. According to the geologist, it is as if the natural forces present on Earth are pushing the place to cause it to split, and when it splits, a new ocean will emerge.

“But it won’t happen right away, it’s something that will happen millions of years from now,” Edwin confirms. The expert says it took about 30 million years for the first sign of rifting to appear on the continent and now it can be seen over 3,000 kilometers in Africa, with an average growth of 2.5 to 5 centimeters per year.

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