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IFLS: Africa Is Splitting Into Two Continents And May Open A Vast New Ocean


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Africa Is Splitting Into Two Continents And May Open A Vast New Ocean


Africa is slowly but surely tearing in two. Like anything in geology, it’s an extremely long process that will take millions of years, but it will eventually see part of East Africa chip off from the rest of the continent, likely resulting in a new ocean arising between the two land masses.


The colossal breakup is associated with the East African Rift System (EARS), one of the largest rifts in the world that stretches downward for thousands of kilometers through several countries in Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique.


This rift system means that the African plate is splitting into two plates – the smaller Somalian plate and the larger Nubian plate – that are pulling away from each other at a super-sluggish snail’s pace of millimeters per year, according to a 2004 study.




Back in 2018, news of a crack emerging in Kenya went viral with many claiming that this was evidence of Africa snapping in two before our eyes. While this startling scene was related to the EARS, it’s a bit misleading to present it as live evidence of Africa’s great split-up. 


As IFLScience reported at the time, this was likely just a highly localized expression of the valley's regular rifting activity. The EARS has been in this current process for around 25 million years ago and the crack in Kenya was an indirect whisper of what’s occurring on the continent. 



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1 hour ago, Metalhead said:

Would the East Africa landmass be large enough to be considered a continent?


I'm guessing yes.  Australia is approximately 4000 km x 3100 km.  The rift extends for over 5000 km, which is longer than the longest dimension of Australia.  

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