Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers at the University of Rochester believe that a 35-mile rift in the desert of Ethiopia will likely become a new ocean in a million years or so, connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Using newly gathered seismic data, researchers have reconstructed how the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted first, then magma pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began 'unzipping' the rift in both directions. 'We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this,' says Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester. The results show that highly active volcanic boundaries along the edges of tectonic ocean plates may suddenly break apart in large sections, instead of in bits, as the leading theory had previously held. The sudden large-scale events pose a much more serious hazard to populations living near the rift than would several smaller events."
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