Environment

Is The African Continent Splitting In Two?

After heavy rains revealed some fault line cracks in Kenya, is there evidence of the continent splitting?

Heavy rains that have hit Kenya in late March and early April possibly led to the appearance of a huge crack in the ground that stretches several miles. This crack appeared in the south-western region of Kenya and is more than 50 feet deep with a width of 55 feet. The tear, which also caused the collapse of a section of the Nairobi-Narok highway in the Kenyan Rift Valley region, was accompanied by some seismic activity that left residents worried and fleeing. Naturally, questions have begun emerging whether or not the African continent is splitting into two.

Is The African Continent Splitting In Two?

First of all, most researchers agree that the African continent is splitting. However, most of them do not agree on the crack being evidence of the split. Most people would find it easy to believe that the rift is evidence especially since there were reports of seismic activity.

Secondly, an understanding of tectonic plates becomes important. The movement of those plates is what caused the continents to be divided as they are this day. Sometimes, these plates can rupture. A good instance of a rupture of a tectonic plate is none other than the East African Rift Valley. Further, for a rift to be of a tectonic nature, the two pieces have to fit in as a jigsaw puzzle would. For the case of the East African rift, the crack does not fit. Thus, it is not of a tectonic nature. Further evidence that the rift is not of a tectonic nature is that the crack is not continuous and there are no clear escarpments on either side of the rupture. Looking at all the continents of the world right now, they will fit like a jigsaw puzzle. All of the evidence suggests that the crack is caused by erosion. In addition, satellite imagery shows that similar cracks, albeit smaller, have formed in other parts of the region further supporting the theory of erosion.

Rifting events happen continuously throughout the Rift Valley in East Africa. As such, frequent seismic activity is recorded by the government. However, in this case, the Kenyan government issued no reports that explicitly state there was some seismic action at play. One thing to note is that the entire region is gradually extending, so frequent seismic action is not uncommon. A more plausible explanation for any tremors that anyone could have heard could be that they originated when the crack itself was forming, but not as a result of any seismic action.

The African continent will split in two, but it will take millions of years. A dramatic event such as the rift should not be a cause for panic that the split is taking place at an accelerated rate. Based on the evidence at hand, it is safe to assume that the feature formed in Kenya in nothing more than a gully. The actual splitting of the continent is a much more gradual process that passes humans by without them ever noticing.

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