You have probably heard the statement that our planet is 70% water plenty of times in your life. Given that on the remaining 30% of the planet, there are 7 terrestrial continents where more than 7.3 billion people live quite comfortably, you can probably start to realize the true vastness of that 70%.
The last time I checked, there were 5 major oceans in the world, but has it ever crossed your mind that there could be some room for a sixth?
How Things Currently Stand
As stated above, our planet is currently home to five major oceans. These are the Pacific Ocean (the biggest and the deepest), the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean (the smallest).
In the past, only four of these oceans were recognized, but in the year 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization introduced the Southern Ocean and determined its boundaries (there have been certain discrepancies and changes over the years, though).
If we went up from four to five, is it possible that we could have another ocean and move again from five to six?
It Has Already Started
I’s highly unlikely that a new ocean will pop up somewhere, given the fact that the existing oceans have a monopoly over the water on the globe. However, quite amazingly, the process a new ocean forming has already begun.
A large crack is forming in the Ethiopian Afar desert and researchers believe that it is set to be the latest addition to our planet’s group of oceans. The rift is 64 kilometers long (almost 40 miles) and 6 metres wide at certain places. It is accompanied by a volcano, Dabbahu, which lies at the northern end of the rift. The volcano erupted back in 2005, and that event helped to create the first 56 kilometers (almost 35 miles) of the rift, which happened in only 10 days! Before the eruption of the volcano, a few earthquakes shook the area, which caused magma to gush up through the crack and spread in both directions along the rift.
Slow and Steady
After the crack across the surface of the ground, it continued to develop, albeit at a slower pace. Magma has continued to flow over the surface and volcanoes have continued to erupt periodically. Also, the deep fissure has kept growing. Researchers are amazed by the swiftness with which this whole process is occurring and the fact that this development is remarkably similar to processes that usually take place on the ocean floor.
Scientists believe that the Afar Rift will eventually connect the Red Sea to the north and the Arabian Sea to the south; as a result, the Afar Rift will turn into a new ocean!
The rate at which the whole process is happening is very slow, so if it continues at its current pace, it will take another 10 million years to become a full-fledged ocean! However, if you could make it that long, you would witness something quite rare and magnificent on our planet – the formation of a new ocean!
- A Continent Splits Apart – Nassau Community College
- African Desert Rift Confirmed as New Ocean in the Making – University of Rochester
- How Stuff Works
- Live Science