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Resurrection of 60-million-year-old Tectonic Plate in Canada May Give a Peek into Earth's 'Secrets'

·2-min read

An elusive prehistorical tectonic plate, Resurrection, might finally get proof of its existence.

Studying pre-history and ancient history (millions and billions of years ancient) is largely dependent on the researcher’s instincts and the ability to deduct conclusions from fairly negligible evidence.

Sometimes, hypotheses about ‘what might have been’ can cause discord among colleagues and professionals, as most people believe in tangible evidence and not detective guesswork.

One such phenomenon is the tectonic plate Resurrection. Some believe it existed, some say it must be subducted into the earth’s mantle by geological processes in the Pacific Margin between 40 and 60 million years ago. Some researchers even claimed it never existed and was simply a geological myth.

However, a group of geologists from the University of Houston College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics claims to have found the elusive plate. They believe it is now under northern Canada which they discovered by analysing mantle tomography images, which is a kind of CT scan for the Earth’s hidden secrets. They think this discovery can help predict volcanic hazards as well as mineral and hydrocarbon deposits.

The study was published in the journal Geological Society of America Bulletin.

According to geologist and professor from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Jonny Wu, volcano formation takes place at plate boundaries. If there are more plates, there will be more volcanoes.

“Volcanoes also affect climate change. So, when you are trying to model the earth and understand how climate has changed since time, you really want to know how many volcanoes there have been on earth,” he was quoted by Lintelligencer.

A process called slab unfolding was applied by Wu and a geology doctoral student, Spencer Fuston. This technique was used to reconstruct how the tectonic plates in the Pacific Ocean might look like during the early Cenozoic Era.

The Lithosphere, which is the outermost layer of the earth’s surface, is made of broken tectonic plates. Two plates, Kula and Farallon, have been associated with the Pacific Ocean. However, some researchers believed a third plate, Resurrection, that formed a special type of volcanic belt along with the Alaska and Washington State.

Using slab unfolding process and 3D mapping, they extracted subducted plates then stretched them to their original shapes. By raising the sunk plates back to the surface through digital reconstruction, they found the boundaries of the ancient Resurrection tectonic plate matched well with the ancient volcanic belts around Washington. They believe this link can be taken as concrete evidence of the plate’s existence.