Geologists think that Africa could split into two separate land masses sometime within the next 10 million years. An international team of scientists has been documenting the effects of a continental rift that is forming as the Arabian and African plates drift apart. Specifically, they are studying a 37-mile-long (60 km) crack in the Earth’s crust in the Afar region of Ethiopia, which split open in 2005 during a volcanic eruption. Geologists expect the drift to continue to widen and lengthen. Eventually, it is expected to reach the east coast of Ethiopia and fill with seawater.
A new island in the Indian Ocean:
- Dr. James Hammond, a seismologist from the University of Bristol, says that as the rift advances, “parts of southern Ethiopia will drift off, create a new island, and we'll have a smaller Africa and a very big island that floats out into the Indian Ocean.”
- In 2005, the major chasm caused by volcanic activity occurred over a period of just 10 days. “The ferocity of what we saw during this episode stunned everyone,” said one scientist.
- Geologists studying the event hope to better understand how the surface of the Earth is shaped, and how earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.