The earth's crust is splitting into two halves

Planet Earth is always in motion and this can have a significant impact on the geological stability of the Earth's crust. Some of these changes are barely noticeable, as in this case.

A case in point is the recent discovery by a team of geologists from China and the United States that a fascinating and surprising phenomenon is taking place in central Tibet.

One of the factors that plays an important role in the dynamics of the Earth is the tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are sections of the lithosphere, including the upper part of the mantle and upper crust, that act as a rigid, relatively cold and strong layer, whose thickness varies with the ocean, becoming thinner there.

This group of geologists has discovered that an unprecedented event is happening in the Himalayas, the deepest part of the Indian tectonic plate.

The earth's crust and landscape transformation

Earth crust

Although it is known that when tectonic plates interact, collide, move or separate from each other, this results in the formation or transformation of landscapes, as is the case of many mountains and the Himalayas, formed by the collision of tectonic plates of the Indian and Eurasian segments, complications sometimes arise when the mating plates have the same density.

The scientists who made this discovery wondered if the Indian plate was being pushed beneath the Eurasian plate or if its surface was undulating as the deeper part slid into the Earth's mantle. The results of the research reached a truly surprising conclusion: the Indian tectonic plate was actually split in half, just below Tibet.

Vertical faults on divergent plates are common, such as in Africa and Iceland, but the difference between them and the one beneath Tibet is that the latter is a horizontal fault. The part that supports the Tibetan plateau is very shallow, while the deepest part sinks into the Earth's crust, about 33 km deep.

Because of these discoveries, scientists began to wonder what the geological significance was and whether the risk of earthquakes in the Tibet region had increased, something that Simon Klemperer, a geophysicist at Stanford University, pointed out as possible.

Likewise, he points out that a deep crack in the Asian plateau, known as Kona Sangri, could be a sign of greater disturbances in the most sensitive part of the Indian plate, reaching the surface. Douw van Hinsbergen, geodynamicist at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) and one of the main researchers of the study, highlighted the importance of this discovery in the field of Earth sciences.

"We were not aware that continents could behave this way, and that has fundamental implications for solid Earth science"said van Hinsbergen.

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