A new ocean in Africa takes shape
Researchers hypothesize that a miles-long crack in the Ethiopian desert may eventually become an ocean.
Tue, Nov 03 2009 at 4:27 PM
A new study from the journal Geophysical Research Letters reports that a 20-foot wide crack in the center of the Ethiopian desert will eventually become a new ocean.
In a recently released study, scientists revealed how a rift from a volcanic eruption tore open a 35-mile crack in just days. Using just-gathered seismic data from 2005, the study shows how Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted and pushed magma up through the middle of the rift area, "unzipping" the rift in both directions.
Cindy Ebinger, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester, co-authored the report. As she tells it, "We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this."
Scientists are excited about the findings because it reveals what is likely happening along the deep ocean floors, a place almost impossible to study. The African and Arabian plates meet in the desert of Northern Ethiopia and have been spreading apart in a “rifting process.” Scientists believe the Red Sea will eventually pour into the newly created sea. This hypothetical ocean will connect to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which is an arm of the Arabian Sea between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia in eastern Africa.
But you don’t have to turn in your globes quite yet. The proposed ocean won’t make an appearance for another million years or so. And since the rift had not been well studied, it is considered a controversial hypothetical ocean.
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