Scientists have discovered that a fault line in Africa will eventually cause the continent to split in two, creating a new ocean, but not for tens of millions of years, the New York Post reports.
The East African Rift, which extends from northern Ethiopia down to Mozambique, is pulling the two sides of the continent apart at a speed of about seven millimeters per year, according to a study led by scientists from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, a national earth sciences research center in Potsdam.
“This is the only place on Earth where you can study how continental rift becomes an oceanic rift,” Christopher Moore, a Ph.D. doctoral student at the University of Leeds who has studied the region, told NBC News in July.
“We can see that oceanic crust is starting to form, because it’s distinctly different from continental crust in its composition and density,” Moore added.
Scientists estimate that the new ocean won’t form for at least 5 million to 10 million years.
“The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean, and that part of East Africa will become its own separate small continent,” said marine geophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara Ken Macdonald.