|EUROPA: Research Information Centre
Last Update: 2007-02-16 Source: Research Headlines
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Researchers scratch the Earth's surface to get a closer look at seismic activity
Tremors have long wreaked havoc across the globe and Africa has not been left without a scratch. Evidence shows that the rift valley in Ethiopia is expanding, albeit at a slow rate. Enter a group of international researchers, led by Dr Tim Wright, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds, who successfully clinched a €3.79 million grant from the National Environment Research Council (NERC) in the UK to study seismic activities that occur in the Afar desert of Northern Ethiopia.
Apart from dealing with ground parts that shifted eight metres, the region was dealt a huge blow when more than two billion cubic metres of magma oozed into a crack between the two tectonic plates, triggering an even bigger separation.
This study affords the 28 researchers the chance to better understand the development
and movement of continents. “Much of the activity between the continental
shelves takes place deep underwater at the mid-ocean ridges,” said Dr Wright. “Ethiopia
is the only place on the planet where we can see a continent splitting apart
on dry land.”
“It's very exciting because we're witnessing the birth of a
new ocean,” explained Dr Wright. “We don't know what is going to happen,
but we believe that it may turn parts of Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea into an
island, before a much larger land mass – the horn of Africa – breaks off from