It’s just the beginning, but it’s happening right under our feet. The earth is in constant motion, even if we don’t always feel it. Well, Kenya has been experiencing a change that could mean a great change in the continent’s structure.
The African continent might be splitting in two, a phenomenon happening due to the movement of tectonic plates. People have been witnesses to some seismic activities that collapsed the Nairobi-Narok highway.
The continent has a tectonic plate, which is split into two parts by a rift: The East African Rift Valley which has a length of 3,000km starting from the Gulf of Aden and going towards Zimbabwe.
Proof that the continent will split into two parts has literally come to surface with the huge crack that appeared in south-western Kenya.
When Will The Continent Split In Two?
Rifting is the first stage of a continental break-up, but it’s going to be a very long time until Africa will split up.
The fractures that formed the rift started 30 million years ago in northern Ethiopia and reached Zimbabwe at a rate of 2.5-5 cm per year. This means that the fissures are barely noticeable, the only hint that tells us they’re still breaking is the earthquakes. However, the seismicity in East Africa has a small magnitude. Volcanoes along the rift are also a clear sign that the continent is in the process of breaking up into two pieces.
The Afar region has volcanic rocks on the rift floor, meaning that the lithosphere is so thin that it will soon break up. When it will break, a new ocean will start forming in the space where magma will solidify.
But it will have to pass tens of millions of years to have the entire length of the rift filled with water. After the seafloor will completely spread in the rift, the African continent will get smaller and the broken part of the land will become a big island in the Indian Ocean.
So, we won’t be able to actually see parts of Ethiopia and Somalia and the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean too soon… But we will surely witness the longest break-up in the world.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.