A University of Missouri study published in Nature this week has found that the Earth's crust melts easier than previously thought.
In the study, researchers measured how well rocks conduct heat at different temperatures and found that as rocks get hotter in the Earth's crust, they become better insulators and poorer conductors. This finding provides insight into how magmas are formed and will lead to better models of continental collision and the formation of mountain belts.
"In the presence of external heat sources, rocks will heat up more efficiently than previously thought," said Alan Whittington, professor of geological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "We applied our findings to computer models that predict what happens to rocks when they get buried and heat up in mountain belts, such as the Himalayas today or the Black Hills in South Dakota in the geologic past. We found that strain heating, caused by tectonic movements during mountain belt formation, quite easily triggers crustal melting."
The study, "Temperature-dependent thermal diffusivity of the Earth's crust and implications for magmatism," was published in this week's Nature and was co-authored by Whittington, Nabelek and Anne Hofmeister, a professor at Washington University. The National Science Foundation funded this research.
Kelsey Jackson | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Black Hills > Earth's crust > Himalayas > Nature Immunology > computer model > continental collisions > crustal melting > external heat sources > formation of mountain belts > geological sciences > hot basaltic magma > hot rocks > magmas > mountain belt formation > strain heating > tectonic movements
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