A New Ocean Is Being Formed Because Of Africa Being Unstable?

A new Ocean is slowly forming as Africa is being slowly ripped apart due to tectonic plates splitting apart, pulling on the continent's east coast.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

Africa will soon cease to exist as it does today and will be split in half by a new ocean overtaking the continent. Don’t worry because it’s only “soon” in the geologic sense, with IFL Science reporting it will take at least five million years. Geologists recently discovered a new layer to Earth’s core, and now researchers believe the tectonic plates beneath East Africa are slowly separating.

The East African Rift System (EARS) stretches from Egypt down to Zambia and Tanzania, making it one of the largest systems on the planet. Each year, two of the plates in the system, referred to as the Nubian and Somalian plates, move away from each other by millimeters. Throughout millions of years, those millimeters start to add up, resulting in the Indian Ocean filling in the void and establishing a new Ocean.

Large rifts throughout the continent, including a massive crack in Kenya, have been held up as signs that the split is happening faster than expected. This is misleading, even if the split is occurring because every landmass is constantly undergoing minor shifts every year. What we think of as solid land is riding on top of tectonic plates, which are then floating on layers of magma in Earth’s “Hell Zone,” resulting in constant minor movements.

Earth’s current configuration is new in the geologic sense, as when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the continents were much closer together. This is why fossils of the same species can be found in France and Montana, as walking from one to the next was possible. South America and Africa didn’t split until roughly 138 million years ago, and the same process is still ongoing today; even as you read this article, the plates are shifting beneath our feet.

The devastating results of an earthquake

Today’s continents will look different in five million years; in North America, California will have started drifting away by then, as even today, everyone is waiting for the big earthquake to kickstart the process. Earthquakes result from the tectonic plates moving apart, over and under each other, with the resulting friction causing giant rifts to appear and sudden shifts in elevation. Underwater earthquakes were blamed for the 2004 tsunami that claimed over 200,000 lives across 14 countries.

When the new Ocean is created, humanity will likely not be around, from either the Singularity resulting in AI replacing us, climate change drowning us, or aliens wiping us out for revenge from the first Galactic War. Five million years is very long; in less than half that time, humanity evolved and became the dominant species on Earth, despite what your cat thinks. Who knows what sort of strange beast will be found off the shores of Africa when the split finally happens?

For now, life is normal, as geological forces on this scale can not be stopped or altered through human intervention. A new Ocean separating Africa into two smaller continents is fascinating, but nothing that we’ll be able to see with our own eyes. Just go about your day without worrying that the Earth will split open and swallow you whole.