You might think geologists have a pretty good idea about the inner workings of the Earth’s mantle – that hot, rocky region between the crust and the core that makes up 84 percent of the total volume of our planet. But a new study suggests that the mantle’s movement could be affected by factors we haven’t even yet considered yet, and that could completely change our thinking about earthquakes, volcanoes, and other plate-shifting events.
The new research, conducted by a team from the University of Columbia, focusses on two layers: the lithosphere, which holds the crust, the upper mantle, and the tectonic plates that slowly slide across Earth’s surface; and the deeper asthenosphere, a hotter and more viscous part of the mantle believed to help drive the movement of the plates above.
Until now, it was thought that major pulls and pushes in tectonic plates – caused by rising and sinking sections of the lithosphere – were what triggered the majority of the movement underneath in the asthenosphere. Now it appears that smaller, more independent factors could have an influence, too. Source: New evidence suggests our understanding of how Earth’s mantle moves is wrong