Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Oozing Magma of Ocean Ridge Tells About Mantle Below

Map showing Southeast Indian Ridge (SEIR.) Land masses are Madagascar (left) and Australia (right.) Image by University of California-Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara - March 5, 2001
A recent article in Nature reports new information about the movement of the upper mantle immediately underneath the Earth's crust. Plate tectonics is the surface manifestation of this movement. The plate including India is crashing into Asia, pushing up toward the Himalayan Mountains. The recent large earthquake in India is part of this movement.

By analyzing the magma that oozes up from a long crack in the Earth's crust under the Indian Ocean, the researchers studied the movement of the mantle, according Frank Spera, professor of geological sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and co-author of the paper.

The scientists analyzed properties of rocks dredged from 5,800 kilometers along the Southeast Indian Ridge. Samples from 6 different voyages, including both American and French expeditions, were included.

This project represents the first time that scientists have related the geochemical variability of the Earth's mantle to its movement, or geophysics -- on an intermediate length scale of approximately 400 kilometers below the crust.

The connection of geochemistry to geophysics is a difficult bridge to cross, according to Spera.

By using chemical tracers, principally the isotope composition of helium, the researchers discovered that small scale convection occurs in the upper 400 kilometers of the Earth's mantle. The upper mantle moves in small rotating gyres, with a three-dimensional helical flow. Fault lines sometimes correlate with these secondary flows.

It has already been established that larger gyres on the scale of 2700 kilometers occur at a deeper level in the mantle. The mantle is the area between the Earth's core and its crust.

Ocean ridges are excellent areas for the study of the mantle because the Earth's crust is thinner there than it is on the continents. The oceanic crust is created by spreading centers where magma comes up in sheets through ridges and then separates laterally. The magma wells up and then spreads apart. About 30 cubic kilometers of magma per year oozes up under all the Earth's oceans, according to Spera.

The researchers are developing a detailed map of the composition of the Earth's upper mantle, using chemical tracers as a key. "You have to look at the surface to build a picture of what the mantle looks like underneath," said Spera.


Schematic depiction of upper mantle convection beneath ocean ridges.
"We are looking at the internal evolution of the Earth. We want to know how the Earth is behaving thermally and chemically over time. It's like tracking the atmosphere, we are looking at the 'weather' of the mantle. We can send down seismic waves, but that yields only crude information. This method allows us to look at smaller scale circulation in the upper mantle."

Spera explained that the Earth is ultimately cooling and will eventually be inert, like the moon, solid to the core. But for billions of years into future the Earth's internal mantle will continue to move in circulation around the core, as it has for billions of years. The heat inside the Earth comes from its primordial heat and from radioactive decay. Heat loss occurs through mantle convection.

Spera went on to explain that the chemical evolution of the Earth is inextricably bound to the style of convection or circulation of the Earth's mantle.

The researchers call this spatial geochemistry. By analyzing the composition of magmas and how their composition varies across the Earth, their location in latitude and longitude, researchers get more information about the mantle.

"It's like mixing ice cream in chocolate and vanilla swirls," he said. "We look at the concentration of the vanilla and the chocolate and the way they become unrelated defines something about the movement in the mantle."

The other authors are D.W. Graham and D.M. Christie of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, and J.E. Lupton of the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Funders were NOAA, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Related Links
University of California-Santa Barbara
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

How Worlds collide: The Great Plate Debate Revisited
Stanford - Jan. 24, 2001
Alfred Wegener sparked a scientific revolution in 1912 by theorizing that great slabs of the Earth's rocky surface -- tectonic plates -- slide under, over or past each other, setting continents adrift. Hotly debated as recently as the late '60s, tectonic plate theory is now universally accepted. But one major question remains: What drives the movement of the great plates?


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.