Another discovery by a Michigan Technological University researcher could send shockwaves across the world of earth science. Aleksey Smirnov, assistant professor of geophysics, with colleagues from the University of Rochester and Yale University, has discovered that the earth’s inner core could actually be at least 1.2 billion years older than previously thought.
“It’s a big deal to researchers in this basic science who thought the earth’s core was much younger, so to speak,” Smirnov says of his paper in the journal Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. “They won’t be happy with it.”
Previously, Smirnov helped solve the mystery of how Siberian “traps”—large-scale basaltic formations—were formed, also a controversial finding. Smirnov uses paleomagnetic data to do his research, measuring the magnetic fields in the oldest rocks on earth. By doing so with samplings from around the globe, he was able to estimate the age of the inner core, which he claims is also related to the start of plate tectonics.
“In the process of plate subduction, one plate goes under the other, sinking towards the Earth’s core,” he says. “When this ‘cold’ subducted plate material first reached the liquid core boundary, that could initiate the formation and growth of solid inner core.”
This geodynamic process, also dramatically changing the magnetic field behavior, happened longer ago than was previously thought, Smirnov claims, because he can see those changes recorded in very old rocks.