Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solving the mystery of the Tibetan Plateau

07.11.2005


A University of Alberta physicist who helped solve the age-old mystery of what keeps afloat the highest plateau on earth has added more pieces to the Tibetan puzzle. Dr. Martyn Unsworth has uncovered new research about the Tibetan Plateau--an immense region that for years has plagued scientists studying how the area became so elevated.


Several years ago, Unsworth and a team of scientists from China and the United States used low-frequency radio waves to detect that the mid-crust of the plateau is like "a big waterbed." The hot, molten rocks supporting the plateau are less dense than cold rocks, which means they rise up slowly, similar to the way a hot-air balloon works. The discovery provides an explanation for how the whole of Tibet could rise up over millions and millions of years.

After that finding, Unsworth returned to Tibet and has since learned that this geological makeup is typical of the whole length of the Himalaya, not just a small region. "We initially thought that this layer might be a local structure, but it’s not so," says Unsworth. His results are published in the current edition of the scientific journal, "Nature."

Dubbed "the roof of the world," or the "abode of the Gods," the plateau contains not just Mount Everest but almost all of the world’s territory higher than 4000 metres. The area was formed when India rammed into Asia about 50 million years ago and is considered a showcase of plate tectonics. Although many theories have been proposed to explain the unusual thickness of the plateau--its crust doubles the average 30 to 35km thickness found the world over--little concrete evidence has been offered. Tibet was closed to foreign access until the 1980s, when French scientists first collaborated with Chinese scientists to investigate the plateau. Since then Unsworth and his international research team have made many significant findings and has recently negotiated access to data collected in India.



These newest results have allowed Unsworth and his research team to quantify how much flow, or viscosity, is taking place. "These models are important because they give observations that constrain many theories about what happens when mountains are formed," said Unsworth. "This has implications in many areas of earth science, since all continents were formed in the past by a series of continent-continent collisions."

In Canada, for example, we cannot easily study collision that occurred in the distant past, says Unsworth, but we can look at these geological processes where they are active today. Last summer Unsworth began a similar project in Eastern Turkey, where two plates are colliding. This collision zone is at an earlier stage than Tibet and may give some clues about the temporal evolution, he says.

Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ualberta.ca

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems
23.01.2018 | University of Exeter

nachricht How climate change weakens coral 'immune systems'
23.01.2018 | Ohio State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>