Curated Article

Study suggests crustal plates have been in motion since the earth formed

Plate tectonics—a scientific theory that divides the earth into large chunks of crust that move slowly over the mantle —may have been active from the beginning.

Editorial Comment

Our understanding of plate tectonics is only very recent. The thought that crustal plates have been in motion since shortly after earth’s formation makes sense. The convection currents within the mantle caused by the extreme temperatures of the core would have began churning as the mantle formed. Those currents would also have been moving bits of lithosphere as it cooled and solidified on the magma sea that was the early earth. This article deals with the analysis of isotopes of the noble gases Helium and Neon in support of the Theory.

Plate tectonics may have been active on Earth since the very beginning

By: University of Tennessee at Knoxville
A combined image of Earth’s plates and their boundaries
Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

A new study suggests that plate tectonics—a scientific theory that divides the earth into large chunks of crust that move slowly over hot viscous mantle rock—could have been active from the planet’s very beginning. The new findings defy previous beliefs that tectonic plates were developed over the course of billions of years.

“Plate tectonics set up the conditions for life,” said Nick Dygert, assistant professor of petrology and geochemistry in UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and coauthor of the study. “The more we know about ancient plate tectonics, the better we can understand how Earth got to be the way it is now.”

The paper, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, has important implications in the fields of geochemistry and geophysics. For example, a better understanding of plate tectonics could help predict whether planets beyond our solar system could be hospitable to life.

read the full article at phys.org

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