East African Rift System is slowly breaking away, with Madagascar splitting into pieces

East African Rift System is slowly breaking away, with Madagascar splitting into pieces

The African continent is slowly separating into a number of large and small tectonic blocks along the diverging East African Rift System, continuing to Madagascar – the long island just off the coast of Southeast Africa – that itself will likewise disintegrate into smaller sized islands.

The finding comes in a brand-new research study by D. Sarah Stamps of the Department of Geosciences for the journal Geology.

Feel confident, though, this isn’t happening anytime quickly.

” The rate of present-day separation is millimeters annually, so it will be millions of years prior to new oceans begin to form,” stated Stamps, an assistant teacher in the Virginia Tech College of Science. “The rate of extension is fastest in the north, so we’ll see brand-new oceans forming there first.”

Geosciences doctoral trainee Tahiry Rajaonarison establishes a GPS instrument in northern Madagascar in this 2016 photograph. Behind Tahir is the Indian Ocean and a rock island. Image credit: Rina Andrianasolo.

” A lot of previous research studies recommended that the extension is localized in narrow zones around microplates that move independent of surrounding bigger tectonic plates,” Stamps said.

The new GPS dataset of extremely accurate surface area movements in Eastern Africa, Madagascar, and numerous islands in the Indian Ocean expose that the split process is more complicated and more dispersed than previously thought, according to the research study, completed by Stamps with scientists from the University of Nevada-Reno, University of Beira Interior in Portugal, and the Institute and Observatory of Geophysics of Antananarivo at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar itself.

In one area, the scientists found that extension is dispersed throughout a broad location. The area of distributed extension is about 600 kilometers (372 miles) large, spanning from Eastern Africa to entire parts of Madagascar.

More specifically, Madagascar is actively breaking up with southern Madagascar moving with the Lwandle microplate– a small tectonic block– and a piece of main Madagascar is moving with the Somalian plate. The rest of the island is found to be warping nonrigidly, Stamps added.

Also working on the paper was geosciences Ph.D. trainee Tahiry Rajaonarison, who formerly was a master’s student at Madagascar’s University of Antananarivo. He assisted Stamps in 2012 in collecting GPS data that was used in this study. He joined Virginia Tech in 2015 and returned to Madagascar later to gather more information as the lead on a National Geographic Society grant. “Leading a team to collect GPS information in Madagascar in summer 2017 was an amazing field experience,” Rajaonarison said.

The group used new surface movement information and additional geologic information to test various configurations of tectonic blocks in the area utilizing computer system models. Through an extensive suite of statistical tests, the scientists defined new limits for the Lwandle microplate and Somalian plate. This approach permitted screening if surface movement information are consistent with rigid plate movement.

Last design for the East African Rift System

Arrows represent anticipated tectonic plate motions.

” Precisely defining plate boundaries and assessing if continents diverge along narrowly deforming zones or through large zones of scattered deformation is vital to unraveling the nature of continental split,” Stamps said. “In this work, we have redefined how the world’s largest continental rift is extending utilizing a brand-new GPS speed service.”

The discovery of the broad deforming zone helps geoscientists comprehend recent and ongoing seismic and volcanic activity happening in the Comoros Islands, found in the Indian Ocean in between East Africa and Madagascar. The research study likewise provides a framework for future studies of international plate movements and investigations of the forces driving plate tectonics for Stamps and her group.

Associated Links

Virginia Tech

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