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Curious layman

The African continent is very slowly peeling apart. Scientists say a new ocean is being born.

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A 35-mile-long rift opened up in the Ethiopian desert in 2005, the result of tectonic plates slowly spreading the continent apart.


This desolate expanse sits atop the juncture of three tectonic plates that are very slowly peeling away from each other, a complex geological process that scientists say will eventually cleave Africa in two and create a new ocean basin millions of years from now. For now, the most obvious evidence is a 35-mile-long crack in the Ethiopian desert.


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The great African Rift Valley has been known about for hundreds of years, and stretches from the Middle East to below the 'horn' of Somalia.
It is actually separating three plates; The Nubian plate, which is most of Africa, is receding from the Arabian plate, across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, fairly quickly, while the Eastern sliver of Africa, including Somalia's horn, is receding much slower.
The separation seems to be subject to 'spurts' of activity, as this latest trench opened up in 2005.

It will still take millions of years for a sea to separate the two parts of Africa.


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