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Plate Separating Model

Where plates separate

Where plates separate

  • Exhibition Text

    • Plates move apart from each other along divergent boundaries. In the ocean basins these boundaries are the mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust forms. Where continents are pulled apart, large gaps, or rift systems, develop. The Great Rift Valley of East Africa is one such rift. In time, it may become like the Red Sea, a more developed rift along which the Arabian and African plates are separating. The Red Sea is a new ocean basin that may eventually grow to the size of the Atlantic Ocean.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Earth Science

      Subtopic: Plate Tectonics

      Keywords: Geology, Structural, Plate tectonics, Red Sea, Rifts (Geology)--Africa

In This Section

East African Rift Zone

East African rift zones

Rifting began 20 million years ago along the East African rift zones, marked by a 3,700-kilometer line of valleys, volcanoes, and lakes that extends from the tip of the Red Sea to Zimbabwe.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea

The Red Sea, shown here in a satellite image, has been widening for the last 20 million years, as the African plate breaks away from the Arabian plate.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

The Atlantic Ocean was created by slow (3 centimeters a year) seafloor spreading along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

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