Back in 2005, when a massive 35-mile-long rift broke open in the Ethiopia desert some geologists controversially claimed that a new ocean was forming as two parts of the African continent pulled apart.
Currently, scientists from several countries have supposedly confirmed that the volcanic processes at work beneath the Ethiopian rift are nearly identical to those at the bottom of the world's oceans, and the rift may likely be the beginning of a new sea.
Published in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters, the new study suggests that the highly active volcanic boundaries along the edges of tectonic ocean plates may suddenly break apart in large sections, instead of little by little as has been predominantly believed. In addition, such sudden large-scale events on land pose a much more serious hazard to populations living near the rift than would several smaller events, says Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester and co-author of the study.
Atalay Ayele, professor at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, led the investigation, painstakingly gathering seismic data surrounding the 2005 event that led to the giant rift opening more than 20 feet in width in just days. Along with the seismic information from Ethiopia, Ayele combined data from neighboring Eritrea and Yemen. The map he drew of when and where earthquakes happened in the region fit tremendously well with the more detailed analyses Ebinger has conducted in more recent years.
Ayele's reconstruction of events showed that the rift did not open in a series of small earthquakes over an extended period of time, but tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. A volcano called Dabbahu at the northern end of the rift erupted first, then magma
pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began "unzipping" the rift in both directions, says Ebinger.
"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," says Ebinger. She explains that since the areas where the seafloor is spreading are almost always situated under miles of ocean, it's nearly impossible to monitor more than a small section of the ridge at once so there's no way for geologists to know how much of the ridge may break open and spread at any one time.
Ebinger and her colleagues are continuing to monitor the area in Ethiopia to learn more about how the magma system beneath the rift evolves as the rift continues to grow.
(2009), September 2005 mega-dike emplacement in the Manda-Harraro nascent oceanic rift (Afar depression), Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L20306, doi:10.1029/2009GL039605.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Swarm Bots Kill Mass Shooter
- Can A New Rule Trigger A Second EU Referendum? Petition 4 Millon Signatures, Nearly 12% Of Total Votes Cast
- Nanotech: The Most Dangerous Science Least Carefully Done
- How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine
- Understanding Rogue Ocean Waves May Be Simple After All
- A Billion Years Ago, What Did Earth's Ancient Magnetic Field Look Like?
- How A Woman With Amnesia Defies Conventional Wisdom About Memory
- "If you really wanted to know the truth you could find many researched and peer reviewed articles..."
- "So how many people with HIV, HCV, Parkinson's, MS, Hansen's disease, etc etc etc are being cured..."
- "Hi Robert; Hope you are doing well. Just wanted you to know that I've put up a new video regarding..."
- "so in a nutshell basically they're not taking worries seriously..."
- "Sentence makes perfect sense. Has it been fixed?..."
- Swayed By Lunch Money: A Grotesque Insult to Doctors
- Sensing Too Much Zika Exposure, Golfers Continue Olympic Exodus
- Cannabis Beverages: A New Way to Get High
- Got Zika? Thank an Environmentalist
- Magical Moron Moments: Burn Your Feet with Tony Robbins
- IARC is controversial – because they put ideology over science
- LGBT rights and protections are scarce in constitutions around the world, UCLA study finds
- Bacterial colonies in human body linked to presence of cancer in mouth and throat
- The Smithsonian celebrates the Panama Canal expansion
- What happens when you steam a planet?
- Clandestine black hole may represent new population