Geologists Say Plate Tectonics Are Splitting the Entire African Continent in Two—Can Anyone Stop it?

Thursday, 29 March 2018 - 10:37AM
Earth
Thursday, 29 March 2018 - 10:37AM
Geologists Say Plate Tectonics Are Splitting the Entire African Continent in Two—Can Anyone Stop it?
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Image credit: YouTube
Things aren't looking good for Kenya right now—the country is literally splitting in two.

Enormous rifts have opened within the ground, that stretch across a large chunk of Kenya's countryside. One such tear, located in Narok County, is 66 feet in length and as much as 50 feet deep at its lowest point.

These rifts are causing a lot of trouble throughout the country, with commuters and supply trucks unable to travel safely without massive delays. One video that shows some of the devastation highlights an area of road that has to be filled in temporarily for the sake of keeping traffic flowing on a busy highway, but the solution is far from permanent, and only allows for a limited number of cars to make the crossing at any given time.

In other areas, conditions are even more terrifying for locals, with families having to abandon their homes out of fear that the rift will spear, swallowing their entire livelihoods whole.



Some scientists believe that this is all caused by a tectonic split, deep under the ground, so any measures that are put into place are only going to provide short-term solutions to the problem at best.

Africa was once upon a time perched upon a single tectonic plate, but this has split into two pieces—the Somalian and Nubian tectonic plates—which are slowly pulling away from each other, creating these rifts. Eventually, the two will separate entirely, and Africa as we know it today will be no more, as East Africa detaches from the rest of the continent.

As if this wasn't enough, there's also a third tectonic plate, the Arabian plate, which is also pulling away along part of this stretch, meaning that the ground in Kenya is being subjected to tectonic forces that are moving in three separate directions. It's hardly surprising that the ground is breaking and cracking under all this pressure.

The good news here is that tectonic plates don't exactly move quickly. The Somalian and Nubian plates split approximately 25 million years ago, and the process of their separation has been going on ever since. It's highly unlikely that this split is going to be completed anytime soon.

That knowledge hardly brings comfort to the people who are currently enduring the ongoing rift issues—Kenya is likely to continue to face these challenges for the foreseeable future, and it's difficult to plan for the future when the ground underneath your feet is literally so unstable that you don't know when a huge chasm is going to open up and engulf your home.

It's also worth noting that some scientists speculate that the natural process of the tectonic split has been exacerbated recently due to increased rainfall in the area, which is eroding the ground soil and providing less protection against earthquakes.

It's not necessarily easy to link this rainfall with man-made climate change, but this new report is yet another bizarre weather anomaly in a time when unusual or irrational storms are becoming more prevalent.

All said, it's not entirely clear what has been causing these rifts to open. Some experts caution against attributing too much of this destruction to tectonic plates if there weren't also accompanying earthquakes and volcanic activity. These chasms could have formed for entirely different reasons.

Whatever the cause, things aren't looking good, and one way or the other, in another 10 million years or so, Africa is going to be broken into pieces whether its inhabitants like it or not.
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