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Violent Tectonic Activity Tearing Africa in Two   

Geologic transformation has "accelerated dramatically"
 

 

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Black lava bubbled up and out of the volcano’s crater on Nov. 22, 2010.
Photo credit: University of Bristol / Lorraine Field
(Link to more amazing photos below)

"Africa is starting to split apart," says this article on Spiegel Online.

"The first tear came in the last million years, resulting in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Now the earth is opening up in a massive expanse of land stretching south from Ethiopia to Mozambique."

"In recent months, seismic activity has accelerated in northeastern Africa as the continent breaks apart in slow motion. Researchers say that lava in the region is consistent with magma normally seen on the sea floor -- and that water will ultimately cover the desert."

When you see this boiling lava, and understand that literally thousands of underwater volcanoes may be erupting in a similar manner right now, you can see what is really heating the oceans. (NOAA estimates that there may indeed be thousands of active underwater volcanoes.)

It had been decades since the famous Erta Ale volcano in northeastern Ethiopia had erupted, but in November 2010, Cynthia Ebinger, a geologist from the University of Rochester in New York,  flew to Ethiopia with some fellow researchers. "The volcano was bubbling over; flaming-red lava was shooting up into the sky," Ebinger told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"In the last five years, the geologic transformation of northeastern Africa has "accelerated dramatically," says Tim Wright, a fellow at the University of Leeds' School of Earth and Environment. Indeed, the process is going much faster than many had anticipated. In recent years, geologists had measured just a few millimeters of movement each year. "But now the earth is opening up by the meter," says Loraine Field, a scholar at the University of Bristol.

"In recent months, researchers have also recorded an up-tick in volcanic activity. Indeed, geologists have discovered volcanic eruptions near the earth's surface at 22 places in the Afar Triangle in northeastern Africa. Magma has caused fissures up to eight meters (26 feet) wide to open up in the ground, reports Derek Keir from the University of Leeds."

Interestingly, the kind of magma bubbling up in the region is the type otherwise only seen spewing forth from mid-ocean ridges, containing "the same chemical composition as the kind that emerges from deep-sea volcanoes."

"The entire region increasingly resembles an ocean floor -- one without water."

"The new burst in activity began in 2005, when a 60-kilometer-long fissure suddenly formed in the Afar Depression. Since then, roughly 3.5 cubic kilometers (about 8/10 cubic miles) of magma have gushed forth, according to Tim Wright -- enough to cover the entire area of London to an average person's height.

"From a geological perspective, the speed with which the magma is pushing forth is astonishing. It has been channeling its way through the rock below the earth's surface at speeds of up to 30 meters per minute, reports Eric Jacques from the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris.  

"Oxford University's David Ferguson predicts a considerable increase in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the region over the next decade. They will, he says, "become of increasingly large magnitude."

See entire article by Axel Bojanowski:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,740641,00.html
Thanks to Siroki and Stephanie Relfe for this link

See more amazing photos:
http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-63771.html

 

 

 




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