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Africa May be Splitting in Two!

Photo+courtesy+of+Wikemedia+Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikemedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikemedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikemedia Commons

Mark R., Contributor

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According to Cable News Network (CNN), recently in South Kenya a massive crack stretching several kilometers has erupted out of nowhere. This ravine, which is continuing to grow as you read this, was detrimental to the surrounding area. In fact, part of the Nairobi-Narok highway collapsed and all nearby houses and farms were destroyed. Furthermore, this split in the ground caused numerous earthquakes which added to the devastation.

The Earth is indeed a unique planet. The Earth is split into tectonic plates, which move in accordance to convection currents in the Earth’s mantle. These convection currents not only move tectonic plates, but at times, can cause plates to rupture and even split. This rupturing can then lead to the formation of a rift which, in time, can create new plate boundaries. In other words, over the course of roughly 50 million years, a rift could form in East Africa eventually leading to its separation from the rest of Africa. This rift is known as the East African Rift and it stretches an amazing 3,oo0 miles!

Now you may be wondering how exactly why and how rifts form. When the lithosphere undergoes a tremendous amount of pressure from horizontal extensional force, it gradually becomes thinner. Eventually, when the lithosphere becomes thin enough it will rupture, leading to the creation of a rift valley. Beneath the rift valley, a large mantle plume domes the lithosphere upwards, causing it to weaken as a result of the increase in temperature. While this is all going on undeground, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur on the surface, acting like an indication. Rifts are just the beginning stage of a continental break-up. If enough rifts form for a long enough time, new ocean basins could form. This phenomenon is not just occuring in Africa, but also in virtually every place with active tectonic plate movement.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to witness this amazing phenomenon. As mentioned before, this feat of nature will take approximately 50 million years and one can obviously not live to such an age. In the distant future, we may have more than seven continents and Earth will change. As time progresses, our world as we know it will look unrecognizable. Our planet is truly a unique place.

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Africa May be Splitting in Two!