(ORDO NEWS) — In the Afar region of Ethiopia, the tectonic plates of Arabia, Nubia and Somalia are gradually moving apart, gradually creating a huge rip and slowly forming a new ocean, according to NBC News.
This desert space sits at the junction of three tectonic plates that are slowly separating from each other in a complex geological process that will eventually split Africa in two and create a new oceanic basin in a few million years.
So far, the most obvious evidence is a 56 kilometres long crack in the Ethiopian desert.
“We can see that the oceanic crust is starting to form because it differs markedly from the continental crust in composition and density,” said University of Leeds doctor Christopher Moore.
Scientists have suspected that the plates are diverging some time ago, but new GPS data is helping them pinpoint exactly what is happening below the Earth’s surface.
The new data provides geologists with an unprecedented opportunity to figure out how tectonic ruptures occur. The tectonic plates of the Earth are constantly moving, scientists still do not know what exactly pushes them away from each other.
The current underlying theory is that massive superheated rocks will bubble right where the three plates meet, but such ideas are difficult to prove.
“With satellites, you can measure the speed of tectonic plates up to a few millimetres a year,” said geophysicist Ken McDonald of the University of California.
“As we get more data, we can better understand what’s going on.”
The three plates are detached at different speeds. The Arabian plate moves at a speed of 2.5 centimetres per year, the rest of the plates move at a speed of up to 1 centimetre per year.
Sources: Photo: In 5-10 million years, tectonic movement will split the African continent in two and create a new oceanic basin. University of Rochester.
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