It does amuse when something all should already know blows up into being a news story. That is, when olds becomes news. So it is with this reporting on the idea that Africa is splitting into two. Well, yes, obviously it is. There’s a reason we call that trench across the east of it the Great Rift Valley. A “rift” being where two bits of land are tearing themselves apart.
This is all part of the basic geologic idea that the continents float about on the lower levels of the more molten parts of the Earth. This being so, their floating, they can and do move about differently. This is also what gave is the different continents of the past, Pangea and all that. It’s even what gives us things like mountain ranges such as the Himalayas. As the Indian bit of land travels north, bumping into Asia, the edges crumple up into those mountains. And as two such “plates” of land part from each other we get rifts, that valley across Africa.
Thus this is olds:
A large crack, stretching several kilometres, made a sudden appearance recently in south-western Kenya. The tear, which continues to grow, caused part of the Nairobi-Narok highway to collapse and was accompanied by seismic activity in the area.
The Earth is an ever-changing planet, even though in some respects change might be almost unnoticeable to us. Plate tectonics is a good example of this. But every now and again something dramatic happens and leads to renewed questions about the African continent splitting in two.
It’s not a new question and it’s not a new observation. It’s just a new bit of evidence for an old contention – that Africa is splitting apart.
Is Africa splitting in half?
Yes, yes it is, and we’ve known this ever since we got the basic idea of plate tectnonics sorted out in the 1950s.
Heavy rains caused havoc in Kenya in March, collapsing hospital walls, flooding entire neighborhoods, and closing off major highways. The downpour also exposed a fault line that geologists now say is evidence that the African continent will split into two over the next tens of millions of years.
The floodwaters created a rift stretching several kilometers near Mai Mahiu town in the Rift Valley, ripping a major highway open and creating a deep gully that sucked in cars and impacted farmers and their homes. Scientists say seismic tremors and tectonic shifts in the region are to blame, with the rains only exacerbating the problem by washing away the surface and exposing the underlying activities.
What’s happened is that the rains washed away the topsoil hiding the evidence of what we already know.
This really isn’t new at all, it’s olds. At some point Somalia etc will sail off toward India while places like DR Congo stay put. Much to the relief of both places no doubt but we’ve known this is going to happen ever since we got the basics of the science understood at all.