African Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is an elongated geological feature or a geographical trench/fissure on the crust of the earth close to six hundred kilometers, termed as a crucial physical detail on earth viewable from space (Sayre 32). It extends from Syria up to Mozambique in Eastern Africa. It is often regarded as a splitting phenomenon on the African plate into Nubian plate and Somali plate. The rift valley sections Kenya to two segments. The East African Rift Valley seems to result to divergent tectonic plate boundary and comprises a segment of the Great Rift Valley. It has been termed by geologists as having formed from powerful subterranean forces which divided the earth crust , causing a large segment to sink amid parallel fault lines while squeezing upwards the magma in volcanic activity (Khan 300). The process has been evidenced by a procedure referred to as rifting from the volcanoes indicated by hot springs that are present in the rift valley. Examples of volcano’s present in the East African rift valley include Mt. Kilimanjaro, Menengai craters, Mt. Kenya, Elgon, Longonot among others.
Currently, it has been thought by geologists that earth tectonic forces have attempted to form new plates thorough dividing the old plates. The fissure is also expected to extend in width as time goes by, forming an extended basin. Geologists however, have been trying to come up with the rifting process that comes up so clear in Eastern Africa. The Nubian ands Somali plate have diverged from one another and also from Arabian plate (Wood & Guth pr. 1). The three plates converge at a triple junction in Ethiopia, Afar region. The actual mechanism of formation of rift valley is still debatable as geologists as well of geophysicists have tried to study the process. However, a common formation assumes increased heat surge commencing in the mantle particularly the asthenosphere, resulting to two thermal bulges in Afar region of Ethiopia and central Kenya. The bulges are viewed as raised highlands on the topographic map in the region.
During bulges formation, they exert force on the crust in a succession of normal faults resulting to horst and graben configuration of the rift valley. It is thought by geologists that the bulges are triggered by mantle plumes below the continent, which heat the above crust, causing its expansion and eventual fracture. As a result it comprises three fracture zones emanating from a position, having an angular distancing of 120 degrees (Wood & Guth pr. 3). The radiation point is called the triple junction better viewed in the Ethiopian, Afar region occupying a pair of branches where the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea rest upon while the third rift branch extends to the south via Ethiopia (Sayre 32).
The process of stretching in forming the rift is preceded by a large volcanic process where magma flow covers an extensive region and is sometimes regarded as flood basalts. As lava erupts along fractures, it flows in sheets over the land covering a massive region, which is thick. Further stretching of crust results to a stretched zone, which has continental and basaltic rocks as they sink below the sea level. Continuous stretching leads to an oceanic crust and formation of an oceanic basin (Croze 12).
In comparison the eastern branch and that of the western branch are different in that the eastern has more volcanic eruptions. The western has deeper basins with large lakes and sediments e.g. Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. The recent basalt eruptions has well as active crevice creation is clear in Ethiopian rift allowing scholars to study the first creation of oceanic basins on the crust. This has attracted great interest, offering grounds to study the current active development of the rift system (Wood & Guth pr. 8). Additionally, it has been essential in studying human evolution, which has shaped the human development. Its structure and as well as rift evolution could have dictated the East African sensitivity to climatic changes resulting to more shifts in wet and arid seasons. The environmental pressure could have offered an atmosphere required by the hominids ancestors to be bipedal or have a high brain capacity through their attempt to adapt to the climatic changes. The African rift valley has proven to be a spring of fossils, which have gone a long way in supporting the theory of evolution. Due to the fact that erosion has occurred from the highlands, the valley has in turn been full of sediments, which has proven essential in the preservation of fossils of bones as well as the hominids (Wood & Guth pr. 9).
To sum it all, the African rift system comprises rift segments that allow modern geologists to understanding the continental drifting and breaking. it also offer a good example of a natural system interconnection, which is a geological set-up moreover, it could have modified the local climate essential for the ancestral man to have an upright posture, have culture and try to understand the rift formation. Its scenery is as well spectacular with many lakes such as L. Tanganyika as the deepest and L. Victoria as the 2nd largest fresh water globally (Webster 19). In addition it has mountains such as Ol Doinyo Lengai , which is the sole natrocarbonatite volcano.. This scenery attracts both local and international tourists, which earns the countries a huge amount of foreign exchange. Additionally, the rift has great flora and fauna in the extensive terrain of mountain and deserts, which inhabit wild animals having unique species such as the mountain gorilla. The lakes present in the rift valley support fish such as tilapia, which acts as food to the people.
Croze, Harvey. Africa for kids: exploring a vibrant continent, 19 activities. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. 2006. Print.
Khan , A. Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt, Ltd. 2005. Print.
Sayre, April. Africa. Bhrookfield, Connecticut: Twenty First Century books. 1999. Print.
Webster, Christine. Valleys. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press. 2005. Print.
Wood, James and Guth, Alex. East Africa’s Great Rift Valley: A Complex Rift System. Michigan Technological University.2011. < http://geology.com/articles/east-africa- rift.shtml >
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