Researchers Found The Connection Between Glaciations And Plate Tectonics

Earth’s outer layer is composed of big plates that grind collectively, sliding previous or dipping beneath each other, giving rise to earthquakes and volcanoes. These plates additionally separate at undersea mountain ridges, the place molten rock spreads from the centers of ocean basins.

However, this was not at all times the case. Early in Earth’s historical past, the planet was coated by a single shell dotted with volcanoes much like the surface of Venus right this moment. As Earth cooled, this shell started to fold and crack, eventually creating Earth’s system of plate tectonics.

Based on the new analysis, the transition to plate tectonics began with the assistance of lubricating sediments, scraped by glaciers from the slopes of Earth’s first continents. As these sediments collected alongside the world’s younger coastlines, they helped to accelerate the movement of newly formed subduction faults, the place a thinner oceanic plate dips beneath a thicker continental plate.

The brand new examine within the journal Nature, is the primary to suggest a task for sediments within the emergence and evolution of world plate tectonics. Michael Brown, a professor of geology at the College of Maryland, co-authored the analysis paper with Stephan Sobolev, a professor of geodynamics on the GFZ German Analysis Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam.

The findings counsel that sediment lubrication controls the speed at which Earth’s crust grinds and churns. Sobolev and Brown discovered that two main intervals of worldwide glaciation, which resulted in large deposits of glacier-scrubbed sediment, every probably precipitated a subsequent increase within the international rate of plate tectonics.

The latest such episode adopted the “snowball Earth” that ended someday around 635 million years in the past, leading to Earth’s modern plate tectonic system.