The Splitting of Africa

The Earth is always changing. Islands are eroding into the ocean, tectonic plates are moving, and ice caps are melting. Theories of continental drift declare that the continents were once one big piece of land that moved apart over many years. California is expected to have a large earthquake at some point due to the San Andreas Fault line, with a possible splitting of the land at some point. Developments in Africa are now pointing towards a possible split of the continent at some point, as well. A major rift in Kenya has opened up, indicating the beginning of the separation process.

The Location

The rift that has opened up is in Kenya’s Rift Valley. This area is a part of the Great Rift Valley. One of the deepest parts of this valley is near Kenya. To the north of Nairobi, the valley deepens and his home to lakes with no outlet to the sea. The entire Great Rift Valley is about 6,000 kilometers long (3,700 miles). It starts in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley and stretches all the way to Mozambique. From Asia to Southeastern Africa, this faulty area houses a variety of rifts and faults.

The Plates

Recently, geologists have referred to the area with splitting activity as the East African Rift. The plate boundary begins in the Afar Triple Junction and continues on across East Africa. This rift is beginning the process of splitting the African Plate into two different pieces. The scientific names for these plates are the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate. The entire area consists of separate rift areas, yet they are connected together.  The names for the areas are the Dead Sea Transform, the Red Sea Rift, the Jordan Rift Valley, and the East African Rift. Most of Africa is on top of the African plate, while a piece of east Africa is situated on top of the Somali plate.

Recent Events

On March 19, 2018 a large gap opened up following significant seismic activity, and severe rains. The crack is about 50 feet wide, with a length of several miles. It is also still in the process of expanding. The area of the earth’s crust and mantle that holds the tectonic plates is called the lithosphere. When this area experiences pulling, the lithosphere thins out. Over time, it reaches a point where is ruptures. This repeated rupturing is what formed the rift valley. These ruptures can be caused by seismic or volcanic activity. In this area there happens to be a sizeable mantle plume under the lithosphere.

It is becoming weaker, therefore it has begun to stretch. It is theorized that the depressions in the surface of the Earth in the valley have been formed over millions of years, with only one to two inches of change per year. The recent earthquakes in Kenya is a part of what initiated the opening of surface of the Earth. The crack interrupted a busy street, and even a home.

The Time Frame 

It is said that the current changes have been initiated by changes that have taken place over millions of years. The small movements of one to two inches per year indicate that it may take millions more for the continent to completely split. The results of the plate movements, however, are becoming increasingly noticeable on the surface of the Earth. Earthquakes and erupting volcanoes are likely to continue to change areas where people and animals lived over many years. The valleys may deepen and busy community areas may be continually disrupted.

The home that was interrupted by this recent opening of the earth involved an elderly lady in the middle of her dinner.

The Earth undergoes many changes under the surface on a daily basis. Some of these do not affect us on the surface, yet. The tectonic plates that cause large problems have usually been under pressure for very long periods of time. They also have sudden movements that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The theory of continental drift is still widely studied, as is thought that more separation of the continents could occur. This recent crack in the Earth is due, mainly, to the location of the land over the dividing area of two plates. Changes cannot be avoided.

Editor's Picks

As her name suggests, Jenna Small stands little over 4ft tall. Being petite and blonde, many often underestimate her talent. As a result, she spent her entire life working twice as hard to prove that she was the best. Now an established geologist, she does not beat around the bush when it comes to her work. Her research has been published and used in schools throughout the region. She often states that her most significant accomplishment was choosing to better herself through a solid education. When she is not busy unearthing new findings, she volunteers as a motivational speaker to girls who have been victims of bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

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