was in the afar some years ago Its a true title which is an Afar tribe word maning HELL. We were there on a fully pid wonderful sojourn looking for SULFITIC deposits of certain metals in use for our many gizmos. OK, from what I recall, the pH pf the water in certain fumaroles was about 1.9 (remember that pH is the NEGATIVE log of the hydrogen ion concentration). yes it was a hot acid. when we get beyond the negative 2.2 carbon compounds are shredded . At 1.9 they oxidize and even "coalify".
When we were working there, we wore full chem "bunny suits" with oxygen regulators that read the NOx and SOx of the air.
I can imagine stuff NOT living there. Thats the way that "black smokers" in the ocean would behave were it not for the fact tht the sulfitic fumaroles are quickly oversaturated by seawater which cqn chemically dissociate rapidly and provide enough oxygen availble for animals of rather weird life chemistry. (Sorta lik antarctic stickleback fish tht hve NO haem in their rather clear blood).
The Atacama desert has a nucleus area in which there is NO water , connate or phreatic. No ground water either. Thus, no life (except for overflying migrating birds heading to Tierra el Fuego) That one is much more easily understood bcause the NO LIFE zone is defined by a desert valley big as Colorado. The Afar "no life zones" will only remain so until the horn of Africa splits off the continent and the volcanic rift zone responsible will become just another mid oceanic ridge studded with volcanoes like the Mid Pacific or the Mid Atlantic ridges. Life will return and evolve as a special adaptation as animals teem in from along the edges.
Id like to see the water spout and steam vents when the afar splits enough so the seas rush in (or seep in)
A dynamic planet like ours , fortunately leaves pretty good records of past events in which we can red fairly nicely in the rocks.