Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists use seismic waves to locate missing rock under Tibet

09.02.2007
Geologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have located a huge chunk of Earth's lithosphere that went missing 15 million years ago.

By finding the massive block of errant rock beneath Tibet, the researchers are helping solve a long-standing mystery, and clarifying how continents behave when they collide.

The Tibetan Plateau and adjacent Himalayan Mountains were created by the movements of vast tectonic plates that make up Earth's outermost layer of rocks, the lithosphere. About 55 million years ago, the Indian plate crashed into the Eurasian plate, forcing the land to slowly buckle and rise. Containing nearly one-tenth the area of the continental U.S., and averaging 16,000 feet in elevation, the Tibetan Plateau is the world's largest and highest plateau.

Tectonic models of Tibet vary greatly, including ideas such as subduction of the Eurasian plate, subduction of the Indian plate, and thickening of the Eurasian lithosphere. According to this last model, the thickened lithosphere became unstable, and a piece broke off and sank into the deep mantle.

"While attached, this immense piece of mantle lithosphere under Tibet acted as an anchor, holding the land above in place," said Wang-Ping Chen, a professor of geophysics at the U. of I. "Then, about 15 million years ago, the chain broke and the land rose, further raising the high plateau."

Until recently, this tantalizing theory lacked any clear observation to support it. Then doctoral student Tai-Lin (Ellen) Tseng and Chen found the missing anchor.

"This remnant of detached lithosphere provides key evidence for a direct connection between continental collision near the surface and deep-seated dynamics in the mantle," Tseng said.

"Moreover, mantle dynamics ultimately drives tectonism, so the fate of mantle lithosphere under Tibet is fundamental to understanding the full dynamics of collision."

Through a project called Hi-CLIMB -- an integrated study of the Himalayan-Tibetan Continental Lithosphere during Mountain Building, Tseng analyzed seismic signals collected at a number of permanent stations and at many temporary stations to search for the missing mass.

Hi-CLIMB created a line of seismic monitoring stations that extended from the plains of India, through Nepal, across the Himalayas and into central Tibet. "With more than 200 station deployments, Hi-CLIMB is the largest broadband (high-resolution) seismic experiment conducted to date," said Chen, who is one of the project's two principal investigators.

Using high-resolution seismic profiles recorded at many stations, Tseng precisely measured the velocities of seismic waves traveling beneath the region at depths of 300 to 700 kilometers. Because seismic waves travel faster through colder rock, Tseng was able to discern the positions of detached, cold lithosphere from her data. "We not only found the missing piece of cold lithosphere, but also were able to reconstruct the positions of tectonic plates back to 15 million years ago," Tseng said. "It therefore seems much more likely that instability in the thickening lithosphere was partially responsible for forming the Tibetan Plateau, rather than the wholesale subduction of one of the tectonic plates."

Other evidence, including the age and the distribution of volcanic rocks and extrapolation of current ground motion in Tibet, the researchers say, also indicates the remnant lithosphere detached about 15 million years ago.

James E. Kloeppel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiuc.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

nachricht NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>