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Birth of an Ocean: How It Works

Africa is splitting apart at the seam, making way for a new ocean.

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Once underwater, the volcanoes of the former rift valley become a mid-ocean ridge, where new ocean floor crust is generated between the two segments of the old continent. Ten million years from now, the entire East African Rift may flood--becoming Earth's newest mid-ocean ridge.....[ More ]

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As the two sides of a rift valley diverge, the valley eventually falls below sea level and floods. In Afar, this spectacular geologic unraveling will be complete when saltwater from the nearby Red Sea floods the massive gash.....[ More ]

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These bright green pools contain nearly pure sulfuric acid.....[ More ]

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Elsewhere in Afar, the extreme heat within the continental crust generates hydrothermal fields with boiling pools of reddish, iron-rich water.....[ More ]

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Seen at night, fresh lava flows call to mind the phantoms of local lore.....[ More ]

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At the northern end of the East African Rift zone, in Ethiopia's Afar Depression, the rifting process has been underway for millions of years, and hardened lava flows of basaltic lava stifle vegetation across much of the region.....[ More ]

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Like a shirtsleeve tearing under a bulging bicep, Earth's crust rips apart as hot rock from deep within the interior pushes up on the solid surface and stretches it thin--sometimes to its breaking point.....[ More ]

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Like a shirtsleeve tearing under a bulging bicep, Earth's crust rips apart as hot rock from deep within the interior pushes up on the solid surface and stretches it thin--sometimes to its breaking point.....[ More ]

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From the Afar Depression of northeastern Ethiopia southward 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) through Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, the African continent is coming unstitched in a process called continental rifting.....[ More ]

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