Lavas from the Afar Depression in Ethiopia, where three tectonic plates are spreading apart, have given scientists a new insight into how ocean basins form.
|Erta Ale lava lake in the Afar region
The Afar region is geologically unique, as it is the only place in the world where two continents are at the advanced stage of pulling away from each other. Geology tells us that when tectonic plates pull apart like this, the continental crusts usually gets thinner causing a depression to form between them. This often gets filled with a sea or, if the continents break apart altogether, a new ocean basin. By studying this so-called rifting process in the present, geologists hope to better understand how other ocean basins, like the
North Atlantic, formed.
The Afar rift is home to numerous volcanoes and the magma the feeds these plays an important role in causing the crust to rift apart.
UK and US
researchers wanted to understand how and where the magma that causes the
rifting in Afar is formed.
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