I've noticed many reports in the media about the East African Rift Valley recently, apparently because some large fissures opened up.

Washington Post: A huge crack provides evidence that Africa is slowly splitting into two
CNN: Big crack is evidence that East Africa could be splitting in two
Fox News: Africa is splitting in two, and here's proof
USA Today: Breaking up is hard to do: Africa could eventually split into two continents

Many of them seem to suggest that this is significant new evidence that Africa is going to split in two, but my understanding was that this was not at all in question and hasn't been for quite some time. Is this just a case of science journalism exaggerating things as it often does or is there something significant in that the existence of these two plates diverging was less firmly established than I thought or that these recent events have significantly changed our understanding of them that justifies all the hoopla, but is not being adequately conveyed.


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Has our understanding of the East African Rift significantly changed recently?


We already know that it is splitting

The headlines suggest that the fact there is splitting (i.e. a rift) is a "maybe": "East Africa could be splitting in two", "Africa could eventually split into two continents".

We already know that it is splitting. There is plenty of evidence for that happening from a variety of fields in geoscience. GPS measurements, geodesy and kinematics tell us how fast it is splitting. The type of magma erupted in volcanoes located in the rift is consistent with what you would expect in a rift (alkaline volcanism and carbonatites). We know that there's a mantle plume below the rift, which is one of the causes of the rifting. We can even see it with deep earth geophysics.

The Kenya crack is not because of said splitting

apparently because some large fissures opened up.

The crack in Kenya is not the result of this rifting. The link provided by JeopardyTempest in the comments is an excellent summary of what it is: erosion caused by heavy rains.

I will note though that some people suggested the crack to follow a pre-existing fault line, so splitting and earthquakes in the past may have formed a "weak spot" for the erosion to occur, but the erosion itself did was not triggered by any seismic or tectonic activity.


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