Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Impact of rainfall reaches to roots of mountains

24.04.2006


Human-induced climate change could ultimately influence deep Earth processes


Diagram showing plate movements due to erosion, Image: Russell Pysklywec


Trace of Alpine Fault along western margin of Southern Alps, Image: Russell Pysklywec



The erosion caused by rainfall directly affects the movement of continental plates beneath mountain ranges, says a University of Toronto geophysicist — the first time science has raised the possibility that human-induced climate change could affect the deep workings of the planet.

“In geology, we have this idea that erosion’s going to affect merely the surface,” says Russell Pysklywec, a professor of geology who creates computer models where he can control how a range of natural processes can create and modify mountains over millions of years. Pysklywec conducts field research in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, where the mountains are high and geologically “young.” He found that when mountains are exposed to New Zealand-type rainfall (which causes one centimetre of erosion per year) compared to southern California-type rainfall (which erodes one-tenth of a centimetre or less), it profoundly changes the behaviour of the tectonic plates beneath the mountains. “These are tiny, tiny changes on the surface, but integrating them over geologic time scales affects the roots of the mountains, as opposed to just the top of them,” says Pysklywec. “It goes right down to the mantle thermal engine — the thing that’s actually driving plate tectonics. It’s fairly surprising — it hasn’t been shown before.”


It takes a supercomputer several days to run one of Pysklywec’s models, which reveal the inner workings of the Earth to hundreds of kilometres below the surface, where the temperature can reach 1,500 degrees Celsius. In extreme conditions, he says, the erosion effect can even cause the underlying plate to reverse direction. “As a concept, imagine blanketing the European Alps with a huge network of ordinary garden sprinklers. The results suggest that the subtle surface weathering caused by the light watering have the potential to shift the tectonic plates, although you would have to keep the water on for several million years.” In the long run, says Pysklywec, it raises the question of whether human activity, which is affecting climate, could ultimately influence deep Earth processes. “That’s what these findings suggest,” he says. “We’re talking millions of years, but it’s one more example of how all these natural systems are interrelated.”

The study appears on the cover of the April issue of Geology and was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Lithoprobe.

Contact:

Russell Pysklywec, Department of Geology, University of Toronto,; e-mail:russ@geology.utoronto.ca, 416-978-4852

Nicolle Wahl | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Six-decade-old space mystery solved with shoebox-sized satellite called a CubeSat
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation

nachricht NSF-funded researchers find that ice sheet is dynamic and has repeatedly grown and shrunk
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>