Is the African Continent Splitting Up?

Plenty of news reports this week saying "An Enormous Crack Just Opened Up In Africa, Evidence Africa Is Literally Splitting In Two." But is the continent splitting apart because tectonic plates are at work?

You probably learned in school that a continent can split in two. That is what led to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. I remember a teacher showing me in elementary school Africa and South America fit perfectly together because they were once one landmass. I was mazed! They were split apart by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Scientists have known that there was rifting in Africa, but they are split on the cause. Is it from a superplume upwelling along the eastern edge of Africa?

In the past week, a massive crack suddenly appeared in Kenya's Rift Valley and that got the attention of the media. Heavy rainfall is also helping the crack continue to grow in size to being a kilometer-sized chasm.

A regional zone of weakness figures into the hypothesis that the breakup of the continent is caused by that underlying superheated plume that is "burning" through the land.

Yes, this large crack in East Africa is evidence of the continent splitting in two. But, like many geologic changes, the rifting process will take many millions of years as the crust begins to thin and sink and a small seaway begins to intrude the rift zone. Still, to see it happening is pretty amazing. Yes, one day there will be another smaller continent and a new ocean.

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