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Mantle and Earth's crust in mortal tectonic battle require new research

A simplified model of the interior of the Earth shows a thin crust layer, apparently covering the hot, deformable layer of the mantle, while scientists have long known that the crust and mantle are inevitably connected, raising the question of what forces are primarily driven by tectonic plates, Trend reports with reference to the satellite.

The hot center of Planet Earth and its cold, hard outer shell are responsible for the movement of tectonic plates in an intriguing balance of forces, opening up new research.

The expiring mantle creates supercontinents as the crust tears them apart, say scientists who published their findings in the article “What Moves Tectonic Plates?” October 30 in Science Advances.

To determine the process of plate tectonics, scientists have created a new computer model of the Earth, in which the crust and mantle are perceived as a single system.

Over time, about 60 percent of the tectonic movements on the surface of this virtual planet were caused by rather small forces during the first 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the surface.

The deep convection of the mantle led to the remainder, with the mantle especially important when the continents were united into supercontinents. Accordingly, shallow forces prevailed when supercontinents fell apart in the model.

The revolution of this study is that the "virtual Earth" is the first computer model that "considers" the crust and mantle as an interconnected dynamic system.

Previously, researchers created models of thermal convection in the mantle, which adequately corresponded to observations of the real mantle, but did not pay tribute to the crust.

Models of plate tectonics in the crust can predict real observations of plate motion, but do not fit into mantle observations.

“Convection models were good for the mantle, but not for the plates, and plate tectonics were good for the plate, but not for the mantle,” said Nicholas Coltis, professor at the Ecole Normale Graduate School, part of PSL University in Paris.

“And the whole history of the development of the system is the feedback between them.”
A simple model of the interior of the Earth shows a thin layer of crust over a hot, deformable layer of the mantle, resulting in the impression that the crust moves under the influence of currents below.

However, in fact, scientists have long believed that the crust and mantle are part of the same system, which raises the question of whether the forces on the surface or the forces in the mantle were mainly the motive movements of the tectonic plates that make up the crust.

Coltice and colleagues have now shown that the two layers are so intertwined that both contribute.

Over the past two decades, as Living Science quoted Coltich, researchers have been working on computer models that could realistically represent the interactions between the shell and the mantle.

In the early 2000s, some scientists developed models of thermal motion (convection) in the mantle, which were labor-intensive and did not receive much subsequent work.

Coltice and his colleagues worked for eight years on their new version of the models, and only the simulation took 9 months.

Experts have created a virtual Earth with realistic parameters ranging from heat flow to the size of tectonic plates and the time it takes for supercontinents to form and break.

The model has flaws, says Coltis, because it does not track the previous deformation of the rock, so stones that were deformed earlier are not prone to easier deformation in the future in their model, as it can be in real life.

However, the model offers a realistic looking virtual planet with subduction zones, continental drift and ocean ridges and trenches.

Researchers have also found that since mantle forces dominate when continents unite, hot “mantle plumes” of magma are not the main reason forcing continents to decay.

The driving forces here are subduction zones: where one piece of crust is forced out under another, and mantle plumes increase their influence at a later stage, Coltis explained.

Looking to the future, Coltis said that the model and the real world should be linked to observations, which allows you to use the model to study everything from major volcanic events to how plate boundaries form and how mantles move relative to the Earth’s rotation.

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