New research indicates carbon dioxide can cause continents to break apart…
In fact, it appears to be facilitating Africa’s slow tectonic divorce right now.
Volcanoes can release large amounts of carbon dioxide along with all the other material they spit out. And the volcanoes of the African Rift Valley are particularly carbon intensive.
Rifts involve the splitting of a craton, the oldest and most stable part of a continental plate.
Professor Tobias Fischer of the University of New Mexico proposed the carbon dioxide released in the process comes from the craton’s base, where it has been accumulating for billions of years.
“The model suggests that this accumulated carbon originates from subducting oceanic plates and deep mantle plumes,” explains Fischer.
However, when Fischer published this idea he was still unable to explain how gasses buried beneath so much rock could make its way to the surface.
Fischer now thinks he has answered this question with a new scientific paper, and his solution could explain continental rift formation.
East African rift produces huge amounts of CO2
The East African rift is gradually pushing a coastal strip away from the rest of Africa. It is thought to release about as much CO2 as a small country.
Fischer’s co-authors sampled gasses from rift valley hot springs and found they divide into two very distinct groups:
- Some release very little carbon dioxide, instead being mostly nitrogen and helium from the crust.
- Others contain carbon dioxide laced with helium whose isotopic signature identifies it as coming from Earth’s mantle.
The key to understanding the difference is Tanzania’s volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, famous for its cool lava.
This volcano erupts lavas that are so liquid they move like motor oil. The reason for this is that they are devoid of the silica that makes up most igneous rocks but contain about 30 percent carbon.
The rocks formed from these lavas are even known as carbonatite. Widespread carbonatite through northern Tanzania indicates many such volcanoes exist but Oldoinyo Lengai is the only one active in recent times.
The paper concludes the underside of cratons includes steep slopes that focus carbon into pockets.
Just as carbon-rich lava flows more easily at the surface, the presence of carbon beneath a craton slopes reduces friction, pushing melted material sideways until it reaches thinner parts of the craton.
There the carbon-rich magma rises, producing a volcanic province and breaking the craton apart, eventually leading to the division of the continental plate and a new seaway.
The East African rift is cracking apart, as shown in these articles featuring terrifying fissures and craters in the ground of Kenya and Uganda:
Africa will split in two… As well as the United States when the overdue Cascadia Really Big One will hit the western coast of the USA. Be ready and get prepared! And to start doing so I recommend this great documentary (click on the image below).