Is Africa on the verge of splitting into two? A massive crack suddenly appeared in Kenya's Rift Valley, leading experts to believe that it could be the beginning of a new continental split.
Massive Crack In African Valley
Last March 19, a massive crack was discovered in Kenya's Rift Valley after heavy rains and seismic activities. The crack measures over 50 feet wide, over 50 feet deep, and a few miles long, looking like the earth in the area has split. Some reports even state that the crack is still growing longer.
The split has torn the Mai Mahiu-Narok road apart and split several houses into two as well. One affected resident is a 72-year-old woman who was reportedly having dinner with her family when her house split into two. So far, government authorities filled the torn section of the road with rocks and cement to keep the major road functioning.
African Plate Tectonics
The Earth's lithosphere is separated into tectonic plates, which continue to move at varying speeds even though it is not entirely apparent on the surface. Such movements can cause the plates to rupture, form rifts, and create new boundaries.
Evidently, while most of the African continent sits on the African or Nubian plate, a large piece of eastern Africa actually sits on the Somali plate. Where these two plates meet is the East African Rift, a 3,000-kilometer stretch from the Gulf of Aden to Zimbabwe. This rift is actually considered an active rift, as evidenced by its hotter-than-normal mantle plume.
According to geologist David Ahede, what's currently happening is the Somali plate moving slowly away from the Nubian plate at a rate of 2.5 centimeters per year. He believes that the origin of the movements is the Suswa volcano, which has a history of tectonic and volcanic activity and that this movement is not something that can't be stopped, as it is a geological process that happens deep beneath the Earth's crust.
A Breakup In 50 Million Years
Despite the disturbing appearance of the massive crack, experts state that the separation could happen 50 million years from now. According to postdoctoral researcher of the Fault Dynamics Research Group at Royal Holloway, Lucia Perez Diaz, such a serious continent change would likely cause seismic activity although these could occur in small magnitudes and spread across the rift. So while this sudden appearance of a massive crack that split a road and several homes may be an unnerving sight, the split may occur without too many dramatic events.