WHILE the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus pandemic and its crippling impact on society and the economy, it appears the planet is changing in more ways than we realise.
SCIENTISTS have predicted a new ocean will form in Africa as the continent continues to split into two.
An enormous continental rift in East Africa, which formed millions of years ago, continues to split at seven millimetres annually.
The active fracture, made up of the western and eastern continental rifts, stretches from the Afar region of Ethiopia down to Mozambique.
The frequent eruption of volcanoes along the rift and new insights into the break-up of continents adds to the theory that the continent may be parting to form a new ocean.
East Africa is already a hotspot for several visible geographical wonders that attract tourists to the region.
Spectacles include the fourth largest freshwater and the second deepest lakes in the world – Lake Malawi and Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika respectively.
In addition, there are the active volcanoes; Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania, and the DallaFilla and Erta Ale in Ethiopia.
And then there’s the Victoria microplate – one of the largest in the world – the possible origin of the birth of a new ocean that could emerge millions of years from now.
A recent study carried out at the Centre for Geosciences at the University of Potsdam, revealed the Victoria microplate has been rotating counterclockwise for the last two years with respect to the great African Plate.
This microplate was found to rotate in the opposite direction to all the other neighbouring microplates in the region.
This gives researchers a new insight into the splitting process of the East Africa Rift system, and they are focusing on the “Y” shaped end of the rift at the Afar region where an ocean is likely be formed if the splits continue.
The “Y” shaped junction is where the African, Somalian, and Arabian tectonic plates meet near Djibouti and Eritrea and is associated with active volcanos including the Erta Ale volcano.
If the divide continues as it has been doing, experts predict a new ocean will be born – albeit millions of years from now.