For years scientists who study the processes underlying the planet’s shifting tectonic plates and how they shape the planet have debated the origins of sudden, massive eruptions of lava at the planet’s surface. In several locations around the world, such “flood basalts” are marked by immense formations of volcanic rock. A famous example is India’s Deccan flood basalt, a formation widely viewed as related to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Such eruptions are thought to typically occur when the head of a mantle plume, a mushroom-shaped upwelling of hot rock rising from deep within the earth’s interior, reaches the surface. Now Scripps postdoctoral researcher Lijun Liu and geophysics professor Dave Stegman have proposed an alternative origin for the volcanic activity of Oregon’s Columbia River flood basalt.
Liu and Stegman argue that around 17 million years ago the tectonic plate that was subducting underneath the western United States began ripping apart, leading to massive outpourings of magma. Their proposed model describes a dynamic rupture lasting two million years—a quick eruption in geological terms— across the so-called Farallon slab, where the rupture spread across 900 kilometers (559 miles) along eastern Oregon and northern Nevada.
“Only with a break of this scale inside the down-going slab can we reach the present day geometry of mantle we see in the area,” said Liu, “and geochemical evidence from the Columbia River lavas can also be explained by our model.”
“When the slab is first opened there’s a little tear, but because of the high pressure underneath, the material is able to force its way through the hole. It’s like in the movies when a window breaks in an airplane that is at high altitude—since the cabin is at higher pressure, everything gets sucked out the window,” said Stegman, an assistant professor with Scripps’ Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.
Liu and Stegman came upon their new mechanism by attempting to describe how the complicated structure of the earth’s mantle under the western U.S. developed during the past 40 million years. The final state of their model’s time-evolution matches the present day structure as imaged by the USArray, the National Science Foundation’s transportable seismic network of 400 sensor stations leapfrogging across the United States.
“This paper highlights the importance of interdisciplinary efforts in Earth sciences,” Liu added.
The John Miles Fellowship, the Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation funded the study.
Mario Aguilera | Newswise Science News
Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation
Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences