Geophysicists find the crusty culprits behind sudden tectonic plate movements

Jan 22, 2015

Credit: © Mopic / Fotolia

By Science Daily

Yale-led research may have solved one of the biggest mysteries in geology — namely, why do tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface, which normally shift over the course of tens to hundreds of millions of years, sometimes move abruptly?

A new study published Jan. 19 in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessays the answer comes down to two things: thick crustal plugs and weakened mineral grains. Those effects, acting together, may explain a range of relatively speedy moves among tectonic plates around the world, from Hawaii to East Timor.

Of course, in this case “speedy” still means a million years or longer.

“Our planet is probably most distinctly marked by the fact that it has plate tectonics,” said Yale geophysicist David Bercovici, lead author of the research. “Our work here looks at the evolution of plate tectonics. How and why do plates change directions over time?”


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7 comments on “Geophysicists find the crusty culprits behind sudden tectonic plate movements

  • Saint Andrew still seems to be determined to hive off a large chunk of California into the Pacific, starting round about Daly City, just south of San Francisco proper.

    What was that song ? Little Boxes Inspired by Daly City apparently !



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  • 4
    Light Wave says:

    Iceland widening the Atlantic and its Volcanos are close enough to Scotland to possibly cause some major damage at some point…like a tsunami maybe



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  • 5
    Light Wave says:

    When the Indonesian Tsunami happened one tectonic plate sprung forward after jarring against another plate – one was subducted under the other causing the megathrust….so the process was well explained then…2004



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  • Well, maybe. The current standard model for the driving force is that plates are dragged by bits of them already subducted. As a geophysicist, however, I’m starting to think that what you say may be partly rigjt. But it’s a complex subject with much highly rechnical debate to come.



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  • Light Wave Jan 22, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    Iceland widening the Atlantic and its Volcanos are close enough to Scotland to possibly cause some major damage at some point…

    But it is getting further away all the time! 😎



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