A large crack that has suddenly appeared in Kenya’s Rift Valley will continue to grow and eventually break Africa apart. That’s what experts are claiming.
The crack already stretches several miles and is cutting through the surface, but it does not go all the way across it. Once it does, it will split the continent into two.
The crack has caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse and also accelerating seismic activity in the area, leading researchers to believe that something dramatic could happen in the future.
“The Great Rift splits Africa into two plates. With what is happening we have established one plate which is the Somali plate is moving away from the other plate at a rate of 2.5cm. In the near future if this happens we shall have the Somali plate separating from the other Nubian plate,” said geologist David Ahede.
“You cannot stop a geological process because it occurs from deep within the crust of the Earth.”
Nubian tectonic plate is the larger one that encompasses most of the continent, whereas the smaller Somali plate constitutes Horn of Africa.
Tectonic plates are constantly in motion. They often crash into, grind against or fall beneath one another, causing earthquakes in the process. When this happens, the plates disintegrate and form a lowland region known as a rift valley. Kenya’s East African Rift is one of the largest rift valleys in the world and expands approximately 3,700 miles long and around 40 miles wide.
The forces that trigger rifts in the surface are still poorly understood. However, they continue to widen over time and start to form cracks. The East African Rift is an excellent example of such activity. The rift in Kenya is so big that it will split Africa in two.
“Rifts are initial stage of a continent 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,” explains The Conversation writer Lucia Perez Diaz, postdoctoral Researcher at the Fault Dynamics Research Group, London’s Royal Holloway.
“The East African Rift is unique in that it allows us to observe different stages of rifting along its length… Eventually, over a period of tens of millions of years, seafloor spreading will progress along the entire length of the rift. The ocean will flood in and, as a result, the African continent will become smaller and there will be a large island in the Indian Ocean composed of parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, including the Horn of Africa.”