A new ocean may form in Africa as the continent continues to split open
A new ocean According to the researchers, it may form in the distant future after the split continues to form in Africa.
“This is the only place on Earth where you can study how a continental fault becomes an oceanic fault,” Christopher Moore, a doctoral student at the University of Leeds, told The Economic Times.
“We see that the oceanic crust is starting to form because it is markedly different from Continental rift in composition and density,” Moore said.
A split has formed in the Ethiopian desert, creating an opportunity for countries like Kenya and Uganda to develop coastlines as a new ocean forms in the fissure.
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A 35-mile-long rift known as the East African Rift formed in 2005, but any development of a new ocean will take 5 to 10 million years, the researchers say.
“The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will surge over the Afar region and flow into the East African Rift Valley and become new oceanand that part of East Africa will become its own little continent,” Ken McDonald, a marine geophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of California, told Mashable.
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“As we get more and more GPS measurements, we can better understand what’s going on.”
The cause of the split remains unknown, but some believe that the formation of the fault was caused by tectonic processes, similar to those that occur at the bottom of the ocean, according to the Times.
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The fault is located at the border of three tectonic plates, which have been diverging for some time. The plates, identified as the Somali tectonic plate, the Nubian tectonic plate and the Arabian tectonic plate, are drifting apart by a few millimeters a year, reports The Jerusalem Post.
Cynthia Ebinger, a geophysicist at Tulane University in New Orleans, noted that the split formed in an area with some of the hottest temperatures on the planet.
“The hottest inhabited city on the surface of the Earth is in Afar,” Ebinger told NBC News. “Daytime temperatures often reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and at night they cool down to a pleasant 95 degrees.”
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She described how the split initially formed, taking only a few days to do what would normally take “several hundred years” of tectonic plate movement.
“We’re trying to understand the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” she said, suggesting that the buildup of pressure from rising magma could trigger the explosive events seen so far in the region.