Mysterious Phenomenon Could Be Making The Atlantic Ocean Grow Bigger Every Year


The oceans aren’t as equal as you may suppose. Scientists estimate that the Atlantic Ocean is definitely rising wider by a number of centimetres yearly. At the identical time, the Pacific is shrinking.


This glacially sluggish shifting of oceans is as a result of ongoing motion of Earth’s tectonic plates, because the plates beneath the Americas pull aside from these beneath Europe and Africa.

The deep, geophysical forces underpinning this epic phenomenon stay removed from absolutely understood, however researchers might have simply recognized an vital contributor to what’s occurring.

In a new research, scientists counsel that mid-ocean ridges – mountainous formations that emerge alongside the seafloor in-between tectonic plates – may very well be extra implicated within the switch of fabric between the higher and decrease mantle beneath Earth’s crust than we beforehand realised.

010 atlantic widening 2The 39 seismometer areas. (University of Southampton)

“Sinking slabs and rising plumes are generally accepted as locations of transfer, whereas mid-ocean ridges are not typically assumed to have a role,” a workforce led by seismologist Matthew Agius from the University of Southampton within the UK explains in a brand new paper.

“However, tight constraints from in situ measurements at ridges have proved to be challenging.”

To fill within the gaps in our information, the researchers deployed a fleet of 39 seismometers alongside the underside of the Atlantic to file seismic actions beneath the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the ridge boundary that tectonically separates the Americas from Europe and Africa.


Seismic readings recorded within the experiment monitored the circulation of fabric within the mantle transition zone that lies between the higher mantle and decrease mantle, enabling the workforce to picture materials switch at depths as far underground as 660 kilometres (410 miles) beneath the floor.

The outcomes counsel that upwellings of chemical materials aren’t restricted to shallow depths within the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, however can emerge on the deepest reaches of the mantle’s transition zone, suggesting materials from the decrease mantle rising upwards.

“The observations imply material transfer from the lower to the upper mantle – either continuous or punctuated – that is linked to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,” the researchers clarify.

“Given the length and longevity of the mid-ocean ridge system, this implies that whole-mantle convection may be more prevalent than previously thought.”

010 atlantic widening 2Deploying one of many seismometers. (University of Southampton)

While it was already identified that mid-ocean ridges contributed to the phenomenon of seafloor spreading, the brand new findings present that the general processes concerned lengthen far deeper into the Earth than has beforehand been measured, and should happen even in areas of the seafloor not marked by overt areas of plate subduction.

“[The work] refutes long held assumptions that mid-ocean ridges might play a passive role in plate tectonics,” says senior researcher and geophysicist Mike Kendall from the University of Oxford.

“It suggests that in places such as the Mid-Atlantic, forces at the ridge play an important role in driving newly-formed plates apart.”

The findings are reported in Nature.


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