Earth’s Mid-life Crisis

maninhammockSome researchers think the Earth went through a mid-age doldrum, a sleepy period of listless ennui. Its plates slowed down, they claim. Or maybe stopped churning completely. For about a billion years, (1.7-.75 bya) the planet was boring. No serious tectonic excitement. Instead, supercontinent Roodinia assembled and then sat like an old frog on an old log on the ocean, doin’ nothin’.

Professor Kent Condie (New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology) says that crustal movement may be speeding up since those days of yore. He wasn’t there in the old days, so we assume he has used some geo-magic to learn this. And he apparently has. Geomag signatures in old rock indicate to Condie that the plates  (previously usually thought to move at a stable pace) are picking up speed. It is not like we need to get ready for the carnival’s Thunderbolt, but we – or whatever creatures our descendants may become millions of years hence –  may be in for a time of exciting mountain range building and plumal pyroclastics.

What’s the rush?  Condie says that the “evidence indicate plate tectonics is speeding up, not slowing down.” This contradicts conventional wisdom that plate motion should be slowing as the Earth’s insides cool. Why? We don’t know, but the Albuquerque scientist is keen to find out. It may result in a new way to view convection and mantle movement and new predictions about the Earth’s future surface.

Read the book,  The Mountain Mystery.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeeping.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
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