Online reports are surfacing that seem to depict massive chasms in Kenya’s Narok County that have been made worse by rains. According to reports, one rift in the earth is 20 meters (66 feet) broad and 15 meters (50 feet) deep.
A geologist claimed in an interview with the Daily Nation that this peculiar phenomena is the result of “zones of weakness” in the area. Some of these fissures are recent, while others are older ones that were concealed by recent volcanic ash before being unexpectedly uncovered by strong rains.
Families have been evacuated immediately because to the geological drama brought on by this. One family was allegedly forced to leave their home while eating supper when a fresh fissure appeared underneath them and split it in half.
What precisely is happening then?
At first glance, this region of Kenya appears to be acting in a fairly dramatic manner, but don’t be alarmed—this might just be a highly localized manifestation of the valley’s typical rifting activity. It’s actually probably just a gully that’s being eroded or revealed by surface processes, but at this moment, there isn’t enough data to be certain.
However, there appears to be some misunderstanding as to what is truly occurring in this region of the world on a bigger scale, so let’s clarify a few things.
East Africa is disintegrating. The East African Rift System (EARS), which has many lovely subtleties and complexity, is the surface manifestation of a massive tectonic plate boundary that runs up along the eastern half of the continent and is 5,000 kilometers (approximately 3,100 miles) long.
The Somalian and Nubian tectonic plates, which are moving apart from one another, were formed when the African plate split into two some 25 million years ago. The triple-junction rift network in the Afar area is structured like a Y as a result of the Arabian plate’s displacement as well.
The average pace of spreading for this active rift zone is a few millimeters each year. This ultimately means that when the EARS continues to rip East Africa apart, a new ocean will form roughly 10 million years from now.
Clearly, going slowly and steadily will win this race. However, the spreading speed varies across the rift, with some regions expanding more slowly or quickly than others.
The most widely accepted theory for why EARS started is that a superheated plume of mantle material, or maybe many smaller ones, is coming up into the crust just under that location. Although one review study from 2014 said that “its deep origins remain poorly understood,” the most likely explanation is a single, enormous plume.
Having an active rift zone has drawbacks in either case.
Over the past few million years, certain areas of the region have sunk while others have risen. The region has been so severely divided by the splitting that it is believed to have left behind tectonic microplates like the Victoria and Rovuma plates. Incredibly strange geochemistry beneath the EARS also produces a variety of exotic volcanoes.
The surface activity mentioned in these studies may be another effect.
For instance, across a 60-kilometer (37-mile) length in 2005, a gap of 8 meters (26 feet) grew up in just 10 days. This crevasse was formed when lava that was on its way to the Dabbahu volcano in Ethiopia was diverted underground. The subterranean magma then cooled, froze, and was driven to the surface, where it caused a fracture. The EARS simply kept rifting, therefore it kept expanding.
Since multiple volcanoes surround this region of Kenya, it is possible that a comparable magmatic diversion event occurred there. Alternatively, the local spreading rate may have increased suddenly and briefly. Or it might be an erosional characteristic, as noted before.
But until additional information becomes available, this is still mostly conjecture.
Update: It’s not obvious what this phenomena signifies, according to Dr. James Hammond of Birkbeck University of London.
“Since it’s not the same as Dabbahu, I don’t believe this has anything to do with magma injection. Dabbahu’s movement was caused by a complex network of flaws rather than a single crack “explained he. In addition, I’m not certain that a local increase in spreading rate is appropriate.
He said, “I’m not sure what prompted this. “Any earthquakes felt at all? If not, tectonic or volcanic activity appears improbable.”