Geological oddity: The Rift Valley in East Africa is a place where the world is slowly tearing itself apart.
The Great Valley Rift in East Africa is composed of two massive plateaus as big as entire countries: the Ethiopia Dome and the Kenya Dome. Both lie within present-day Ethiopia and Somalia.
According to scientists, the rift valley is tearing East Africa apart and in another 50 million years, we’ll have another ocean there. Amazing, no?
It is known that the tectonic plates underneath this part of the continent are in the process of separating. Using precise isotopic measurements, scientists are now closer to figuring out why and how this process is working.
What is pushing the tectonic plates underneath the surface apart?
The debates last for many years. The only plate existing today, the African plate, is slowly dividing into two plates, the Somali plate and the Nubian plate. Both plates will rupture completely in approximately 10 million years.
The new study suggests that the cause of this Rift Valley rupture is a superplume, a huge area within the Earth’s mantle that brings heat up from the planet’s core to the crust. Superplume can be analysed using noble gas isotopic analyses.
After geochemical measurement of Helium and Neon isotopes, the new study demonstrates that the Kenya Dome and Ethiopia Dome:
- Are products of the same thing: a huge African superplume underlying the entire East African Rift,
- The plume underneath both plateaus was of the same material and of the same age.
Hence, there was one common superplume at the origin.
If you have time, this video brings you on an adventure to the East African Rift Valley to understand this dynamic region of our planet.