back to article Volcanic African 'unzipping' could see continent divided

An enormous 35-mile-long rift which "unzipped" in "just days" across the face of Ethiopia has now been confirmed by boffins as the beginning of a process which will see Africa split in two by a new ocean. Geologists around the world, including some at Leeds Uni in the UK, came together to analyse the startling event in which a …

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Continental Change?

No doubt this, like Climate Change, will be seen to be another disaster caused by man's interference with Nature, and therefore something on which extra taxes can be levied.

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WTF?

Beginning? It's been going on for yonks.

There's Cretaceous sediments in parts of the East African Rift Valley; 65+ million years ago.

http://www.searchanddiscovery.net/documents/2009/10188tiercelin/index.htm

The Red Sea is a branch that has managed to make the split, but after 60-odd million years the East African branch is still mostly a lot of hot air.

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@ G R Goslin

Absolutely, and there'll be daily 'news reports' about rocks eroding in the Antarctic.

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FAIL

Magma

The Magma was liquid, hot *and* molten?

My goodness, how dangerous it must have been!

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Joke

Release Your Inner Schoolboy

"Mega Dyke Intrusion" <snigger>

Seriously though, interesting stuff. I was kind of hoping the boffins would speculate as just what lines they expect Africa to split along.

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Anonymous Coward

Nearly missed it

An unusually restrained title for you Lewis, you feeling OK?

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'liquid hot molten magma'

Three of those words are redundant.

The word for subterranean molten rock is - magma.

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WTF?

@twats above

jeeze people, you really can't see any difference between humans burning a whole planet's worth of fossil fuels & tectonic shifts??

i really hope you're both american, or being sarcastic at least..

look at it this way, you wouldn't burn a pile of tyres in your living room as it would make the air unbreathable, bar the scale, that's pretty much what we are doing to the planet's atmosphere.

(yes it's probably a bad metaphor, maybe i should go with "you wouldn't take a dump or leave all your rubbish in your own 'back yard'")

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Well said ..

G R Roslin !

I'm sure there will a link made between human-caused climate change and the new rift. Suspect a case could be made that the rift is happening because the CO2 level is the lowest it's been for many millennia and we need to push more CO2 into the atmosphere.

Seriously (and writing as a geologist) this is a pretty exciting event to recognise - though it may be a bit too exciting for the inhabitants of that part of Africa in the coming 100,000s of years.

Great to see the planet get in with what it does and ignore the puny parasites that infect it's surface!

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Joke

Non PC

I thought you weren't allowed to say Dyke??

Isnt it Continents in Comfortable Shoes?? .. <ROFL>

Yeah I know old!! .. But hey

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@ John Hawkins

'The Red Sea is a branch that has managed to make the split, but after 60-odd million years the East African branch is still mostly a lot of hot air.'

If you look at the UK you'll find deep rifts that never really got going. The North Sea is one, the Minch off of Western Scotland is another. But one of the biggest is right under Brum. If you find a geological map of the UK, you'll see a long North-South finger of Permo-Trias rock running through the Midlands towards Bristol. This is the Worcester Graben, a colossal rift valley that began opening up in the early Mesozoic which has been filled in with desert deposits.

Had history been different, the Worcester Graben would have opened up into the Atlantic and Wales would now be part of America. In the end, the Atlantic decided to form West of Ireland resulting in the huge volcanic deposits found right across Northern Ireland, the West of Scotland and Greenland. Oh and the whole of Iceland.

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Unhappy

@ G R Goslin

``No doubt this, like Climate Change, will be seen to be another

disaster caused by man's interference with Nature, and therefore

something on which extra taxes can be levied.''

Your analogy is broken in several ways: Unlike the increasing CO2 concentration, the march of the continents

(1) has been going on since long before the industrial revolution,

(2) isn't going to endanger anything when it happens in the middle of nowhere (earthquakes etc. in populated areas are a different matter) and

(3) can't be averted by achievable, if mildly inconvenient/unprofitable, changes to our comfortable lifestyle.

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Playmobil reconstruction please

Specifically of the "mega-dyke intrusion".

Schoolboy sniggers all round :)

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Coat

New Ocean?

Maybe Mother Nature has been arranging somewhere for the excess water from the melting icecaps to go all along..

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Question

When the new ocean-basin is created, will world-wide sea levels fall by an appreciable amount? Presumably, all that water has to come from somewhere to fill the new basin?

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Stop

@ G R Goslin

By the responses you received to your original post it seems that this event in Africa also seems to have eroded certain respondents sense of sarcasm eh?

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Joke

Just like the Falkland War

For a moment there I shat myself, worrying that a huge continent was about to tear itself in two. Then - just like Adrian Mole when he realised that the Falklands weren't off the coast of Scotland - I realised that it was going to take a while and calmed down.

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Joke

Title?

maybe Bono can hold another ROCK concert to help highlight the problems caused by man made Continental Change.

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Stop

science?

isn't the search for knowledge, it's the search for funding.

these guys got Paid for this? one part of a connected system changes and they predict alterations that are knock on effects then manage to observe them. outstanding.

as for the comments on global warming and the fundamental sense of humour fail exhibited thereafter.. meh. don't be so uninteresting.

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Happy

@AC 16:11

Your analogy is also broken,

1) Climate change has also been going on long before the industrial revolution

2) So, you know *exactly* what's going to happen then, where the earthquakes will be and what their magnitude will be?

3) Climate change can't be averted by anything we can do either. Even if it is caused by our CO2.

Also, I think you need to try and develop a sense of humour...

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Anonymous Coward

@Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

Thats what he gets for blaspheming their religion.

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Joke

The Flintstones' volcano?

"Geologists around the world, including some at Leeds Uni in the UK, came together to analyse the startling event in which a volcano named Dabbahu caused the mighty crack to open in the face of the Earth."

That would be "Yabba Dabbahu," I presume...

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Alien

Chtulhu rising!

The stars are right!

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Coat

Cunning

I don't know what all the sniggering is about. On the other hand, it does look like something familiar, but I can't put my finger on it...

http://www.rochester.edu/news/photos/hi_res/hi509.jpg

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Call Emmerich!

He knows how to sex this up. "Crack in the World" remake, anyone?

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Happy

MAGMA

Why does that make me think of a certain shag-a-delic movie?

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Grenade

Poe's law

``as for the comments on global warming and the fundamental sense of humour fail exhibited thereafter..''

It looks like Poe's law can be extended to climate change deniers, too, then: Any parody of a belief system will be mistaken for the real thing, unless there's an obvious disclaimer (such as a winking smiley).

As there really are climate change creationists hanging around the Reg comment boards, I'm taking no chances.

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Paris Hilton

Screw the geology

Where's the pics of the mega dykes?

Paris, you don't have a Lynsey Lohan icon.

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Anonymous Coward

@Rob 30

A lot of environmentalists actually do take a crap in their own back yard...

And yes they were being sarcastic.

And, if I fart in my house, it makes it unbeatable, but I don't really think I should be taxed on farting now ;)

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@ G R Goslin

Was going to chide you for your largely humourless cynicism but the tardal wave of wrongbrained responses leaves me stranded on your side of the rift.

What do you think the new Volcanic Activity Tax would be called?

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Joke

gobal warming tie in?

Nah I bet it will be sold as some more guilt over the slave trade myself....

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Moz
Paris Hilton

Oh, Bravo!

"Mighty cleft suddenly appears in 'mega dyke intrusion'"

You know - it's subheadings like this that make the Reg worth reading. Bravo that man!

Paris... well, it just has to be, doesn't it?

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Boffin

Nice bit of science

Its always good to see when theory and reality match so well, and will be really useful for geology if this rift does work like the undersea ones.

However, its scarcely "splitting Africa in two". Follow the links to the Rochester Uni page and zoom out on the satellite view and you'll see its just splitting off the fang-shaped bit at the SE and of the Red Sea. When it finally splits off it will be just a large island a bit more than half the size of Madagascar.

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Pint

"mega-dyke intrusion"?!?.

Has to be said: So GIANT LESBIANS are behind this, eh?

I'll drink to that!

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It's all shite.

Science these days is all about grabbing headlines. And talking about continental splits and new oceans will definitely grab headlines. The more headlines you get the more speaking arrangments, interviews, book & TV deals and funding you will receive. However it isn't good science.

There seem to have been lots of these events which have not amounted to new oceans and split continents. So how can they be so sure that this one will result in such a continental divide? They can't, but the beauty of this compared to, say, global warming is that these scientists will be long dead by the time events prove them right or wrong. The problem with predicting that something will happen within your lifetime is that you could well end up being proved wrong in your lifetime, predict something will happen on a geological time scale and even if somebody else comes up with science that disagrees you can still make more money out of arguing with each other.

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Boffin

Not entirely new...

I can't find a decent map of exactly where the crack is, but it sounds like what they're really talking about is an addition to the existing rift zone which is already busy separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa. (And which also formed the Rift Valley in eastern Africa.) The "new ocean" is already forming in the Red Sea.

As for observing ocean-floor processes on land, that's the neat thing about the Afar region-- it's an area of oceanic crust that's been pushed up above sea level, so a great place to study what happens at oceanic rifts without all that tedious mucking about in submersibles...

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It's the unzipping

by the mega-dyke intrusion that worries me. Will a return to fly buttons save the world?

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Boffin

@Bassey

No, the opening of the rift to the ocean will not affect global ocean levels at all; that's because the space opened within the Rift Valley will be compensated for by the expanding borders of the African continent. Otherwise, it would imply that the Earth’s getting larger due to continental drift, which would imply the centre of the Earth is hollow, which would, in turn, imply we have a VERY VERY bad earthquake on the way.

Lost bits of Africa can be found very, very, very far from The Dark Continent; in fact, the entire Eastern Seaboard of the USA, and the easternmost parts of Canada, are in fact chunks of the African continent. The ancient North American shore was crushed up into the Appalacian Mountains a few hundred million years ago. And what's even wackier, in Newfoundland you can actually see a piece of the BOTTOM of oceanic crust and some upper mantle rock, lying at the surface and split vertically in glorious cross-section.

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I, for one

welcome our new continent-tearing overlords

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Anonymous Coward

@Jelliphish

Hard to do science without funding, to be honest.

I guess you've never worked in academia?

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Re: OPoor Coco

Thanks. That was what I thought, just wanting confirmation. Wasn't sure whether, when two land-masses collide, the upward "push" of land was enough to create an appreciable drop in global sea levels.

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve Crook

> 1) Climate change has also been going on long before the industrial revolution

This isn't about ice ages. The bits of climate change that are going to cause problems in the near future have happened on a much shorter scale. http://qurl.com/bv65n

> 2) So, you know *exactly* what's going to happen then, where the earthquakes will be and what their magnitude will be?

Where did you get that idea from? My point was that the harm done by global warming is more than that done by the appearance of this 35-mile rift.

> 3) Climate change can't be averted by anything we can do either. Even if it is caused by our CO2.

If you accept that it's caused by our CO2, then don't you think we could maybe do something about it by not producing so much CO2 in future?

> Also, I think you need to try and develop a sense of humour...

I can see that it was *intended* as a joke. The problem is that it only works if you start from the position of thinking that man-made climate change is a hoax.

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Climate change

Oh FFS look up multidecadal osillation

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isnt it ?

AGW I mean?....you mean people really do believe in AGW ?

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