In DepthGeophysics

Graveyard of cold slabs mapped in Earth's mantle

Science  25 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6315, pp. 954-955
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6315.954

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Summary

The x-ray of Earth's interior is coming into focus. In December, at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California, a team of Dutch scientists will announce a catalog of 100 tectonic plates that have descended into the mantle, with information about their age, size, and related surface rock records, based on their own imaging and other studies. This "atlas of the underworld" is part of a movement by geoscientists to rewind the clock on ocean crust lost to subduction, allowing them to reconstruct the sizes and locations of ancient oceans, along with points where mountains rose and later eroded away, their traces visible only in unexplained rock records. Although imaging uncertainties remain, these scientists could be inaugurating a new discipline, which some call "slab tectonics."

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