Giant Rift in Ethiopia Will Someday Form a New Ocean

November 3, 2009

(ChattahBox)—An international team of scientists has descended in the desert of Ethiopia to witness the birth of a new ocean, as a geographical rift in the earth begins to form an ocean-ridge, which will one day be filled with waters from a parting Red Sea. The 35-mile crack in the earth is providing scientists with a natural ocean-ridge laboratory, to study how early oceans are formed.

The large rift opened up in 2005, after the Dabbahu volano erupted, pushing up magma through the middle of the rift, expanding it to 20 feet wide in spots. Seismic data from the event showed that the rift opened up the earth in a matter of days.

The scientists believe the same process occurs on the ocean floor. Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences said, “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.”

Ebinger is excited at the opportunity the rift provides for scientific research of ocean ridge formations:

“The whole point of this study is to learn whether what is happening in Ethiopia is like what is happening at the bottom of the ocean where it’s almost impossible for us to go. We knew that if we could establish that, then Ethiopia would essentially be a unique and superb ocean-ridge laboratory for us. Because of the unprecedented cross-border collaboration behind this research, we now know that the answer is yes, it is analogous,” added Ebinger.

The same rift is also slowly dividing the Red Sea, which would eventually fill the developing desert rift. The new ocean would connect to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The team of researchers on site, will not see the creation of the new ocean in their lifetimes, however. Scientists predict it will take another million years before the entire process is complete.

The study of the newly developing ocean ridge is available in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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One Response to “Giant Rift in Ethiopia Will Someday Form a New Ocean”

  1. supplements on November 18th, 2009 8:24 am

    A new study involving an international team of scientists and reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters finds the processes creating the rift are nearly identical to what goes on at the bottom of oceans, further indication a new sea is in the region’s future.
    The same rift activity is slowly parting the Red Sea, too.
    Using newly gathered seismic data from 2005, researchers reconstructed the event to show the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano 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, the researchers explained in a statement today.“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,” said Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester and co-author of the study.

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