According to geologists, Africa’s future is sealed. Tectonic plates on the continent will separate and eventually transform the Somali Peninsula into an island.
The Somali Peninsula moves eastward
A physical map of Africa confirms this, but raises doubts. Stretching for millions of kilometers, the African trenches resemble a great rift.
However, it is difficult to believe that this is a tectonically active area. No massive earthquakes, no volcanic lava flows, and nothing forcing the African Plateau to break apart, or dragging the Somali Peninsula eastward.
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And yet that is what is happening, and on a geographical scale, the process is accelerating. We don’t notice it because this scene takes place deep in the earth, and in a few million years the effect appears in the form of an ocean basin.
African Rift Zone
The East African Rift (rift zone) is now two large cracks in the Earth’s crust. The east passes through Ethiopia and Kenya, while the west forms an arc from Uganda to Malawi.
However, multiple lines can be drawn on the map. First, the region where the tectonic plates are moving apart must be seismically active. However, it is not so clear cut. This area has a zone of volcanic activity, but it is underwater, off the east coast of Africa.
Rifts and earthquakes are contemporaneous with, but perpendicular to, the East African Rift. The main cleavage line appears to have stopped or shifted. In Africa the earth behaves like a bursting balloon, not a knife-cut cake. This is why the topography and seismicity of the rift zone may be inconsistent with active tectonic plate movement.
Land degradation in Africa
Computer modeling of satellite data performed this year confirms that rifts in Africa are still ongoing. It is caused by processes taking place in the asthenosphere (at the boundary between the liquid core and the Earth’s mantle).
They cause degradation of the landscape, but in two ways. First, they cause enormous stresses to be transferred to the lithosphere. There they accumulate, and when the force reaches a critical value, earthquakes and cracks occur. Africa is then “fragmented” from east to west.
The reaction of the lithosphere does not mean that tectonic movements weaken or cease. Deeper, mantle materials are constantly migrating. It moves towards north-east which also causes land erosion. However, they are much less powerful.
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