New hypothesis links plate tectonics to the Moon and Sun

(ORDO NEWS) — The movements of the lithospheric plates can arise due to the shifted center of rotation of the Earth and Moon system and solar gravity.

The earth’s crust is made up of blocks, tectonic plates, which are in continuous slow motion. It is generally accepted that these processes are associated with energy rising from the bowels of the planet.

The heat that has been preserved since the era of the formation of the Earth, as well as from the decay of radioactive isotopes, heats and mixes the semi-liquid mantle, on which the tectonic plates float. However, this picture is far from final. Suffice it to say that the energy coming from the depths is not enough to power plate tectonics .

Apparently, we do not know all of its mechanisms or even fundamentally misunderstand them. Scientists from Washington State University in St. Louis suggested a completely different explanation for these processes, linking them to the gravity of the Sun and Moon.

An article about this is presented in the collection New Ideas in the Earth Sciences, which the Geological Society of America released in memory of the prominent geophysicist Warren Hamilton, who died in 2018.

The fact is that the Moon is quite massive and not only revolves around the Earth, but also makes it slightly shift from its position. Both objects revolve around a common center of mass – the barycenter, which is not located in the geometric center of the planet, but 4670 kilometers closer to the surface, oscillating about 600 kilometers to the sides.

As a result, the forces that arise due to the orbital motion of the Earth and the gravity of the Sun turn out to be unbalanced and act differently on parts of the planet located at different distances from the barycenter.

“Warm, thick and powerful inner layers can withstand this stress,” says Anne Hofmeister, lead author of the new work. “But the thin, cold and fragile lithosphere is breaking apart.” An additional load on it is created by a slight flattening of the planet’s shape due to rotation around its axis. Constantly changing, these unbalanced forces cause the plates of the earth’s crust to move.

Scientists came up with this idea by comparing known solid-surface planets, data on their volcanism and crust structure, the size and position of their satellites, distance from the Sun, rotation speed and other orbital characteristics.

According to geologists, the study of distant Pluto can confirm or refute this bold hypothesis. Calculations show that this dwarf planet is too cold and small for the convection of heat from the interior to continue until now. But Pluto has a large satellite – Charon – and the crust is relatively young . Perhaps it is being renewed by the play of unbalanced forces that fuels plate tectonics on Earth.


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