The African Continent Is Splitting in Two and It’s Happening Faster Than We Thought

Eastern Africa is splitting from the rest of the continent in a geological event that will occur in millions of years, eventually leaving Africa without its horn.

It’s happening quicker than anyone thought as well – although it’s worth pointing out that when we say ‘quick’ we are talking in geological terms, which means within a few million years.

Whilst it’s unlikely to suddenly break off and fall into the Indian Ocean next Thursday, it is already causing consequences.

A big road in Kenya – known as the Mai Mahiu road – has already cracked and caved in under the pressure.

Geologists thinks it is all down to volcanic activity. Specifically, a Superplume.

The geologic rift running down the eastern side of the continent, which will be replaced with ocean, is widening at a faster rate than expected, geologically speaking.

And it may already be causing problems. Kenya’s busy Mai Mahiu road caved in after it developed a volcanic fault-line, the Kenya National Highways Authority said.

David Adede, a popular geologist, thinks that the split is the cause for the road sinking and putting drivers and commuters to a major risk.

The rate at which the Somalian plate is moving is believed to be around 2.5 cm per year. Eventually, the Somalian plate will be separated from the Nubian plate.

As per David, after the crack appeared on the road, there was a big hole and all the water inside was swallowed, thereby resulting in further cracks.

However, researchers will have to carry out further research on the terrain, so that they can know the regions which are at a high level of vulnerability.

The event that is causing the split of Somalian plate and Nubian plate is known as superplume, where a giant section of the earth’s mantle carries heat from its core and emerges in the crust of the Earth.

It is only the matter of a few years before we know what actually would happen!

Why does rifting happen?

When the lithosphere is subject to a horizontal extensional force it will stretch, becoming thinner. Eventually, it will rupture, leading to the formation of a rift valley.

Great Rift Valley, Tanzania. Shutterstock

This process is accompanied by surface manifestations along the rift valley in the form of volcanism and seismic activity. Rifts are the initial stage of a continental break-up and, if successful, can lead to the formation of a new ocean basin. An example of a place on Earth where this has happened is the South Atlantic ocean, which resulted from the break up of South America and Africa around 138m years ago – ever noticed how their coastlines match like pieces of the same puzzle?.

Maps made by Snider-Pellegrini in 1858 showing his idea of how the American and African continents may once have fitted together

 

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