Global Geological And Climatic Events

Africa’s splitting plates could give birth to a new Ocean: Study


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: East African Rift, Various lakes

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central idea

  • Scientists predict a new ocean will be created as Africa splits into two separate parts connected to the East African Rift
  • This geological process will inevitably divide the continent resulting in new coastlines and sub-sea internet infrastructure but also will have significant repercussions

What is Rifting?

  • The Earth’s lithosphere, comprising the crust and upper part of the mantle, is divided into tectonic plates that move in relation to each other at varying speeds.
  • Tectonic forces move the plates and can cause them to rupture, resulting in the formation of a rift and potentially leading to the creation of new plate boundaries.
  • Rifting refers to the geological process in which a single tectonic plate is split into two or more plates separated by divergent plate boundaries.
  • In the present day, the gradual separation of the Somali and Nubian tectonic plates is leading to the formation of a rift that could eventually lead to the creation of a new ocean basin.
  • The movement of tectonic plates is a fascinating geological phenomenon.

Rifting in African Continent

  • The African continent is located on the African Plate, which is one of the Earth’s major tectonic plates.
  • The continent is characterized by a number of geological features, including rift valleys.

Most profound feature: The East African Rift System

  • The East African Rift System is the most prominent example of rifting in Africa.
  • It stretches for over 6,000 kilometers from the Red Sea in the north to the Zambezi River in the south.
  • The rift system includes a series of interconnected rift valleys, volcanoes, and lakes.

Causes of the East African Rift System

  • The rift system is caused by the movement of the African Plate away from the Arabian Plate and the Somalian Plate.
  • This movement creates tension in the Earth’s crust, causing it to pull apart and form a rift.

Impact: Lakes Formed by Rifting

  • Over time, the rifting process has led to the formation of several large lakes in the region.
  • These lakes include Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Malawi.
  • They are believed to have formed as a result of the sinking of the land between the rift valleys.

Future of Rifting in Africa

  • The rifting process is ongoing and may eventually lead to the splitting of the African continent into two or more separate land masses.
  • However, this process is expected to take millions of years and is not likely to have a significant impact on human populations in the near future.
  • The necessary evacuation of people and potential loss of lives will be an unfortunate cost of this natural phenomenon.
  • The emergence of new coastlines will unlock opportunities for economic growth
  • As the plates continue to split in the future, this phenomenon will result in the displacement of communities, settlements, and various flora and fauna.


  • The movement of tectonic plates has significant implications for the continent’s future.
  • It is important to study and monitor these changes while remembering the power of the Earth’s natural forces and the impact they can have over time.

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