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 Wintertime Arctic sea ice growth slows long-term decline: NASA
07.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Why Tehran Is Sinking Dangerously
06.12.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

Im Focus: The force of the vacuum

Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.

The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

Inaugural "Virtual World Tour" scheduled for december

28.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new molecular player involved in T cell activation

07.12.2018 | Life Sciences

High-temperature electronics? That's hot

07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Supercomputers without waste heat

07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>