Scientists have developed a new model of Earth’s tectonic plates that offers new insights into the planet’s geological history and a better understanding of natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes.
The research, published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews, provides a better explanation of the spatial distribution of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Earth’s history.
“Our new tectonic plate model better explains the spatial distribution of 90% of earthquakes and 80% of volcanoes in the last two million years, while existing models only capture 65% of earthquakes,” said Derrick Hasterok. , Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Adelaide.
In the study, scientists produced three new geological models: a plate model, a province model, and an orogeny model (mountain formation).
“There are 26 orogenies – the process of mountain formation – that have left their mark on the current architecture of the crust. Many of these, but not all, are related to the formation of supercontinents, “said Dr. Hasterok.
Supercontinents, especially Pangea, Gondwana, and Laurasia, are large land masses in Earth’s history that are thought to have split to form today’s continents.
The new model, scientists say, includes cool microplates such as the Macquarie microplate in southern Tasmania and the Capricorn microplate that separates the Indian and Australian plates.
“These new plate models show an improved correlation with the observation of earthquakes and volcanoes in deformation zones and microplates, compared to existing models, capturing 73 and 80 percent of these criteria, respectively.” they wrote in the studio.
The researchers added more accurate information about the boundaries of deformation zones, as previous models showed them as discrete areas rather than wide areas.
“The most significant changes in the plate model have occurred in western North America, which often has the boundary with the Pacific plate drawn as the San Andreas and Queen Charlotte faults. But the recently demarcated boundary it is much wider, about 1500 km, than the narrow area drawn above, “Dr. Hasterok explained.
“The other big change is in Central Asia. The new model now includes all the deformation zones in northern India as the plate climbs towards Eurasia,” he added.
Scientists say the recently updated model can be used to improve geological hazard models such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
“The orogeny model helps to understand geodynamic systems and better model the evolution of the Earth, and the provincial model can be used to improve mineral prospecting,” Dr. Hasterok said.