Published: 17:38 EDT, 21 October 2020 | Updated: 17:38 EDT, 21 October 2020
Geologists claim to have found evidence of the long-lost Resurrection tectonic plate that has been a topic of debate among the scientific community – with some saying it never existed.
A team from the University of Houston College believes to have uncovered remains of the plate hundreds of miles beneath a region of northern Canada.
Researchers identified a massive chunk below the Yukon that closely matches what they suggest was the shape of the Resurrection plate during the Cenozoic Era.
It is though that the ancient plate moved sideways and downwards into the Earth’s mantle between 40 and 60 million years ago, but has since been deformed due to the earth’s intense heat.
The findings could help geologists better predict volcanic hazards, along with where mineral and hydrocarbon deposits may be hiding.
A team from the University of Houston College believes to have uncovered remains of the Resurrection plate hundreds of miles beneath a region of northern Canada. Researchers identified a massive chunk below the Yukon that closely matches what they suggest is the shape of the Resurrection plate during the Cenozoic Era
Jonny Wu, assistant professor of geology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said: ‘Volcanoes form at plate boundaries, and the more plates you have, the more volcanoes you have.’
‘Volcanoes also affect climate change. So, when you are trying to model the earth and understand how climate has changed since time, you really want to know how many volcanoes there have been on earth.’
A tectonic plate is a massive, oddly shaped chunk of rock that are composed of Earth’s crust and the uppermost portion of the mantle.
Where these slabs meet are known areas of earthquakes and volcanic activity, so finding the location of the Resurrection plate could help experts predict such events.
Researchers identified a massive chunk below the Yukon that closely matches what they suggest was the shape of the Resurrection plate during the Cenozoic Era
Both formed at the beginning of the Cenozoic Era as well, which is some 66 million years ago to present day, off the coast of western North America.
There are some speculations of a third plate that may have melted and deformed due to the intense heat lurking inside of the Earth, forcing it to shrink dramatically, Newsweek reports.
The team believes the Resurrection plate formed a special volcanic belt along Alaska and Washington State.
Wu and Spenser Fuston, a student at the University of Houston, applied a new technique called ‘slab folding’ to reconstruct what the tectonic plates would have looked like during the early Cenozoic Era.
‘We believe we have direct evidence that the Resurrection plate existed. We are also trying to solve a debate and advocate for which side our data supports,’ Fuston said.
The team took a deeper look at existing mantle topography images, allowing them to understand the interior landscape of North America.
Slab unfolding was then use to identify subducted plates, which are boundaries of tectonic plates where one has moved another and is forced to sink.
It is though that the ancient plate moved sideways and downwards into the Earth’s mantle between 40 and 60 million years ago, but has since been deformed due to the earth’s intense heat
Jonny Wu and Spenser Fuston, a student at the University of Houston, applied a new technique called ‘slab folding’ to reconstruct what the tectonic plates would have looked like during the early Cenozoic Era
Three large chunks of rocks were spotted, which the team worked backwards to uncover their origins.
Two were already known, the Alasak and Cascadia slabs, which are still attached to each other.
However, a third was identified that is about 250 to 370 miles below the Yukon, which the team dubbed the Yukon Slab.
‘When ‘raised’ back to the earth’s surface and reconstructed, the boundaries of this ancient Resurrection tectonic plate match well with the ancient volcanic belts in Washington State and Alaska, providing a much sought after link between the ancient Pacific Ocean and the North American geologic record,’ explained Wu.
The team’s model suggests that the Yukon slab gradually made its way northeast after the Resurrection plate was first subducted some 40 million years ago.
Below is the asthenosphere: the warm, viscous conveyor belt of rock on which tectonic plates ride.
The Earth has fifteen tectonic plates (pictured) that together have molded the shape of the landscape we see around us today
Earthquakes typically occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates, where one plate dips below another, thrusts another upward, or where plate edges scrape alongside each other.
Earthquakes rarely occur in the middle of plates, but they can happen when ancient faults or rifts far below the surface reactivate.
These areas are relatively weak compared to the surrounding plate, and can easily slip and cause an earthquake.
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Plate tectonics, Geology
World news – CA – Long-lost Resurrection tectonic plate may have been found