British scientists have discovered new details of the process, which resulted in East Africa soon — the geological, of course, standards — will cease to exist.
The Earth's surface is divided into a dozen or so major tectonic plates that drift face and cause geological phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. They are driven by magma that rises from the depths of the planet cools and solidifies to form fresh oceanic crust. Continents, in turn, are composed of older and light crust.
In East Africa, the continental crust loses fight for survival. Sooner or later it will burst, and in its place will be splashing waves neighbor Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
For geologists East Africa — a platform for direct observations of plate tectonics. "This is an ideal natural laboratory" — said study co-author Ian Bastou the University of Bristol, who, along with Derek Keir from the University of Southampton, reanalyzed data 1970 obtained during the examination of the spread in the cortex of blast waves. By how quickly they pass through the crust, you can determine the thickness of the latter.
Of particular interest to specialists is the valley of the Afar in northern Ethiopia, where the crust is so thin that the larger part of the territory is below sea level. Here, earthquakes and lava emissions occur constantly.
The new analysis shows that this lava erupts due to the recent expansion plate. "The reason — a sudden thinning, — says Mr. Bastou. — If it has been slow to explain this amount of lava flows would have been impossible. "
The scientists believe that their research is relevant not only in the northern Ethiopia, but also for all the other places where the continents break apart. Atlantic Ocean, for example, began to form about 200 million years ago, when the division of Europe and North America.