Scientists have developed a latest model of Earth’s tectonic plates that gives fresh insights into the planet’s geological history and a greater understanding of natural hazards like earthquakes and volcanoes.
The research, published within the journal Earth-Science Reviews, provides a greater explanation of the spatial distribution of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Earth’s history.
“Our latest model for tectonic plates higher explains the spatial distribution of 90 per cent of earthquakes and 80 per cent of volcanoes from the past two million years, whereas existing models only capture 65 per cent of earthquakes,” said Derrick Hasterok, a lecturer with the Department of Earth Sciences on the University of Adelaide.
Within the study, scientists produced three latest geological models – a plate model, a province model, and an orogeny (mountain formation) model.
“There are 26 orogenies – the means of mountain formation – which have left an imprint on the present-day architecture of the crust. Lots of these, but not all, are related to the formation of supercontinents,” Dr Hasterok said.
Supercontinents, notably Pangaea, Gondwana, and Laurasia, are large land masses in Earth’s history thought to have divided to form the current continents.
The brand new model, in response to the scientists, includes fresh microplates resembling the Macquarie microplate that sits south of Tasmania and the Capricorn microplate which separates the Indian and Australian plates.
“These latest plate models show improved correlation to observed earthquake and volcano occurrences inside deformation zones and microplates, in comparison with existing models, capturing 73 and 80 per cent of those criteria, respectively,” they wrote within the study.
Researchers added more accurate information in regards to the boundaries of deformation zones since previous models showed these as discrete areas relatively than wide zones.
“The largest changes to the plate model have been in western North America, which regularly has the boundary with the Pacific Plate drawn because the San Andreas and Queen Charlotte Faults. However the newly delineated boundary is way wider, roughly 1500km, than the previously drawn narrow zone,” Dr Hasterok explained.
“The opposite large change is in central Asia. The brand new model now includes all of the deformation zones north of India because the plate bulldozes its way into Eurasia,” he added.
Scientists say the newly updated model will be used to enhance models of risks from geohazards resembling earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
“The orogeny model helps understand the geodynamic systems and higher model Earth’s evolution and the province model will be used to enhance prospecting for minerals,” Dr Hasterok said.