Africa is slowly splitting in two – but this ‘crack’ in Kenya has little to do with it

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Photo Credit: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Media outlets have been abuzz recently about a large “crack” which recently appeared in the Kenyan Rift Valley. Many of these reports have concluded that the crack is evidence of the African continent actively splitting into two. The majority of these articles cited limited expert commentary, most of which was taken out of context and was based on minimal hard evidence. Subsequent articles fed directly off previous reports, propagating unsubstantiated rumours and losing sight of original sources all together.

Given the timing of the appearance of the crack, the unsubstantiated reports of earthquakes occurring at the time, and its location along a tectonic plate boundary, it is understandable to think that this indicates a splitting of Africa. But because of the major impact this could have on lives of those living and working in the area, it is extremely important that we look at all available evidence to discern the true cause and prevent undue panic.

If we look at all available evidence, the most logical explanation is that this crack was actually formed by erosion of soil beneath the surface due to the recent heavy rains in Kenya. Also, a look at satellite imagery indicates that similar erosion patterns can be seen elsewhere in the region suggesting that these flash flood events have caused this type of erosion before. This also agrees with the opinion of local geologists and the results of previous studies.

So what we have here is just a gully… not evidence of Africa being split into.

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