A new research shows that tectonic shifts along the East African Rift System are slowly tearing the continent apart.
The team of geologists demonstrated that Africa to break into several smaller and larger tectonic blocks, thus creating a new ocean basin and causing the Madagascar to crumble into smaller islands in the Indian ocean.
The only good news is that the break-up is not expected to happen anytime soon but within the next 5-10 million years.
Signs are already there
But signs of this process can already be observed in places like Ethiopia, where a 35-mile-long rift split the ground open in 2005.
Rifting like this is caused forces deep underground stretching out Earth’s lithosphere layer until it cracks.
However, the rate of present-day break-up is millimetres per year, so it will be millions of years before new oceans start to form.
The rate of extension is faster in the north, so we’ll see new oceans forming there first.
Most previous studies suggested that the extension is localised in narrow zones around microplates that moved independent of surrounding larger tectonic plates.
The new study found the continental break up is much more complex and widely distributed than previously thought.
In one region, for example, the researchers found extension across 372 miles (600km), from Eastern Africa to parts of Madagascar.
The findings suggest the island is actively falling apart with southern Madagascar moving on one tectonic plate, while central Madagascar is moving on a separate plate.
What is The East African Rift System?
Some 200 million years ago, all of the world’s continents were locked into one gargantuan landmass dubbed Pangea.
But the supercontinent fractured with time, splitting into the continents as we know them today.
More recently – in the last 30 million years – the Arabian plate has been slowly drifting away from Africa.
The process is what gave birth to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
The East African Rift System stretches for more than 1,800 miles (3,000km) from the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia, and south towards Zimbabwe.
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