March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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UNRAVELING MYSTERIES BENEATH THE PACIFIC: TECTONIC PLATE DEFORMATION FROM JAPAN TO NEW ZEALAND

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TAG: GS 1: GEOGRAPHY

THE CONTEXT: Scientists from the University of Toronto have made a groundbreaking discovery, revealing that tectonic plates under the Pacific Ocean, primarily the Pacific plate, are undergoing significant tearing and deformation.

EXPLANATION:

  • This new insight challenges previous understandings of plate dynamics and sheds light on a previously unknown aspect of Earth’s geology.

Understanding Earth’s Outer Shell:

  • The Earth’s outer shell, known as the lithosphere, comprises rigid tectonic plates that float atop the semi-fluid asthenosphere.
  • The movement of these plates plays a crucial role in shaping the planet’s surface features.
  • The research team was surprised to find that large undersea faults, hundreds of kilometers long and thousands of meters deep, are scoring the Pacific plate.
  • This phenomenon, previously thought to occur only in continental plate interiors, challenges existing geological paradigms.

In-depth Analysis of Deformation:

  • The Pacific plate, covering the majority of the Pacific Ocean floor, moves westwards and descends into the Earth’s mantle along subduction zones from Japan to New Zealand and Australia.
  • The researchers observed that as the plate’s western edge is pulled down into the mantle.
  • The remaining portion experiences deformation, likened to a tablecloth being pulled from a table.

Plateaus’ Counterintuitive Weakness:

  • Contrary to previous assumptions, the study found that sub-oceanic plateaus, including Ontong Java, Shatsky, Hess, and Manihiki, are weaker despite their thickness.
  • The researchers utilized seismic data and advanced computer models, challenging the notion that thicker plateaus should be stronger.

Role of Supercomputing in the Study:

  • To unravel these mysteries, the scientists employed a supercomputer to create a model based on existing data.
  • This computational approach allowed for a more comprehensive understanding of the geological processes occurring beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Geographical Scope of the Study:

  • The research focused on four plateaus in the western Pacific Ocean, covering an extensive area bordered by New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, and Australia.
  • This geographical scope provided a holistic view of the tectonic activities in the region.

Publication and Implications:

  • The study’s findings, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, have profound implications for our understanding of Earth’s dynamic processes.
  • The discovery challenges established theories and underscores the existence of radical mysteries in the planet’s evolution.
  • The research from the University of Toronto reveals a previously unknown aspect of tectonic plate dynamics beneath the Pacific Ocean.
  • The findings not only challenge existing geological models but also emphasize the need for continued exploration and investigation to unravel the complexities of our ever-evolving planet.

SOURCE: https://www.wionews.com/science/scientists-say-tectonic-plate-tearing-apart-under-pacific-ocean-from-japan-to-new-zealand-688973

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