The Pacific plate is being sub ducted at new locations, according to recent research.

The Earth’s outer shell is composed of around a dozen large tectonic plates, and one of the major plates – the Pacific plate – is currently being pulled apart. Researchers from the University of Toronto have discovered this and it is giving new insights into the century-old model of plate tectonics. The team has found that the Pacific plate is marked by large undersea faults that are causing it to split. The study has been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and discusses the immense forces that are pulling the plates apart.

These under sea faults are hundreds of kilometers long and thousands of meters deep.

“We knew that geological deformations like faults happen on the continental plate interiors far from plate boundaries. But we didn’t know the same thing was happening to ocean plates,” Erkan Gun, a post-doctoral researcher in the department of Earth Sciences in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, told “What we’re doing is refining plate tectonics-the theory that describes how our planet works and showing those plates really aren’t as pristine as we previously thought,” added Russell Pysklywec, a professor in the department of Earth Sciences.

The Pacific plate is the largest tectonic plate, which covers most of the Pacific Ocean floor. It extends along the west coast of North America, reaching up to Alaska. Towards the western edge, it stretches from Japan to New Zealand and Australia.

This plate constitutes a significant portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire. According to recent studies, new locations have been identified where the Pacific plate is being pulled down into the mantle.

“It was thought that because the sub-oceanic plateaus are thicker, they should be stronger. But our models and seismic data show it’s actually the opposite: the plateaus are weaker,” said Gun.

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A research team conducted studies on four plateaus located in the western Pacific Ocean, namely Ontong Java, Shatsky, Hess and Manihiki. The area under consideration is approximately bounded by Hawaii, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. The data collected during the study was then fed to a supercomputer, which compared it with information collected during studies conducted in the 1970s and 80s.

“A new finding like this overturns what we’ve understood and taught about the active Earth. And it shows that there are still radical mysteries about even the grand operation of our evolving planet,” said Pysklywec.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1.  Gün, Erkan, et al. “Syn‐Drift Plate Tectonics.” Geophysical Research Letters 51.2 (2024): e2023GL105452.
2. Ai, H. A., Stock, J. M., Clayton, R., & Luyendyk, B. (2008). Vertical tectonics of the High Plateau region, Manihiki Plateau, Western Pacific, from seismic stratigraphy. Marine Geophysical Researches, 29(1), 13–26.
3. Avigad, D. (1996). Pre-collisional ductile extension in the internal western Alps (Sesia zone, Italy). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 137(1–4), 175–188.
4. Bird, P. (1978). Initiation of intracontinental subduction in the Himalaya. Journal of Geophysical Research, 83(B10), 4975–4987.
5. Bull, J. M. (1990). Structural style of intra-plate deformation, central Indian ocean basin: Evidence for the role of fracture zones. Tectonophysics, 184(2), 213–228.

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