Researchers predict that a 35-mile fissure in the desert region of Ethiopia will eventually see itself become a new ocean. This fissure, which can be up to 20 feet wide in certain locations, cracked open 11 years ago in 2005. Researchers thought that even then it might spawn the beginning of a new ocean, but the rift was not thoroughly studied and this view received criticisms.
However, recent research surrounding the rift, lead by a team of international scientists, has found that the processes that are creating the rift are practically identical to the processes that occur in the depths of our oceans. In fact, this same type of fissure activity is currently parting the Red Sea, slowly but surely.
Using seismic data from 2005, researchers recreated the geological event that lead to the 35-mile tear in the African desert. A volcano found at the northern end of the fissure, named Dabbahu, erupted first, allowing magma to seep up into the rift, which then caused the rest of the fissure to tear open and form.
Cindy Ebinger, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester (and co-author of the study), notes that while they knew “that seafloor ridges [were] created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, [they] never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this.”
Ebinger continues to tell us that the aim behind their study was to be able to compare what’s happening in Ethiopia to what’s happening on the ocean floor, where we currently do not have the means to venture. If they can successfully do this, then this new ocean ridge in Ethiopia could serve as a unique laboratory for research.