When we are little and we go to school, one of the first things we learn is that our planet was not always as we see it now on maps. Millions of years ago, all the continents formed a single continent called Pangea. Over the centuries, these emerged lands were very slowly separating. Now there is more to know: the new ocean of Africa.
It is to be expected, then, that these events will be repeated in the future, even when our species no longer exists. And scientists are sure there will be at least one more continental mass split on Earth.
Africa could be divided in two, new ocean
This microplate has been spinning in the opposite direction with respect to the African plate for two years now. This is a clear sign that the fracture is cresting, indicating the formation of a new ocean.
Scientists explain that the crack that begins in Afar, Ethiopia, and extends to Mozambique, widens about seven millimeters per year. If the division continues at this rate, in 50,000 years the African continent will be divided in two, with a large African Ocean in between.
Great Rift Valley crack
It was in 2018 when, suddenly, in Narok County, Kenya, a huge crack 20 meters wide and 15 meters deep. Volcanic activity and plate tectonics cause this crack to grow about seven millimeters a year.
The current territories of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti they would be affected by the movement that scientists warn about. The process would end in 50,000 years, something “quick” from the point of view of geology.
Today the Rift Valley It is the only place on planet Earth where experts can analyze how a continental crack gradually transforms into an oceanic crack.
They know this because their studies have established that the Victoria microplate, which sits in the middle of the east and west branches of the rift in the Afar region, has been spinning counterclockwise lately.
What does this mean? that moves in opposite direction to that of the African plate that accompanies the clocks. As a consequence of this disagreement between the two, the continent could literally split in half.
At least this is confirmed by the studies carried out by scientists from the University of Potsdam, Germany, which were published in the journal Nature Communications and include a large part of these surprising discoveries.
The experts, who belong to the Center for Geosciences of the aforementioned university, assure that if these displacements continue -and nothing suggests otherwise- a new ocean will open in the center of Africa.
When will the separation of the African continent take place?
That as a species we are aware of what will happen does not mean that we are going to witness those events. Calculations indicate that the Afar rift opens at a rate of 7 mm per year, so it will take billions of years for Africa to finally cease to be the unified continent we know.