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Africa and Madagascar are literally falling apart to form new oceans – scientists sound the alarm

Africa and Madagascar are literally falling apart to form new oceans - scientists sound the alarm 1

The split of the continent is essentially a continuation of the destruction of the Pangea supercontinent, which began about 200 million years ago. Now a team of researchers from the United States has figured out that Africa will split into smaller tectonic blocks along the East African Rift System all the way to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. As a result, the land will break up into smaller islands.

GPS device Madagascar
© Rina Adrianasolo

This phenomenon will completely change the definition of both Africa itself and the Indian Ocean, according to the journal Geology. However, scientists have assured that we will have a long time to wait for the end of this phenomenon.

“The rate of fracture is currently in millimeters per year, so it will take millions of years before new oceans begin to form. It is highest in the north now, so we will first see the progress,” lead author Sarah Stamps said.

Previously, most scientists assumed that the expansion was localized in narrow zones around microplates, which move independently of the larger tectonic ones that surround them. 

“But new GPS data on precise surface movements in East Africa, Madagascar and several islands in the Indian Ocean show that the separation process is more complex and takes up a larger area than previously thought,” the geologists added.

In one region, scientists have found that the rift is about 600 kilometers (372 miles) wide and extends from East Africa to entire parts of Madagascar. More precisely, the southern part of the island is actively separating from Madagascar, which moves along with the Lwandle microplate. In addition, part of central Madagascar moves with the Somali Plate.

Africa and Madagascar are literally falling apart to form new oceans - scientists sound the alarm 2

The discovery of a wide deformation zone helps geologists understand new and ongoing seismic and volcanic activity occurring in the Comoros, located in the Indian Ocean between East Africa and Madagascar. The study also provides a basis for future work on global plate movements and the study of the forces affecting plate tectonics.

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