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Author Topic: Mantle Plumes  (Read 3862 times)


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Mantle Plumes
« on: July 19, 2011, 04:13:58 PM »
New scientific study shows magma plumes accelerate movements of tectonic plates
One of the mysteries of Earth science is hotspots. While most volcanoes are found at plate boundaries, where two tectonic plates are rubbing against each other, volcanic hotspots can be anywhere, even in the middle of continents. What causes volcanic hotspots? One theory is the idea of a mantle plume. A mantle plume is kind of like what’s going on inside a lava lamp. As the light heats up the wax in a lava lamp, it rises up through the oil in large blobs. These blobs reach the top of the lamp, cool and then sink back down to be heated up again. Inside the Earth, the core of the Earth is very hot, and heats up the surrounding mantle. Heat convection in the mantle slowly transports heat from the core up to the Earth’s surface. These rising columns of heat can come up anywhere, and not just at the plate boundaries. Geologists did fluid dynamic experiments to try and simulate mantle plumes, and they found they formed long thin conduits topped by a bulbous head. When the top of a mantle plume reaches the base of the Earth’s lithosphere, it flattens out and melts a large area of basalt magma. This whole region can form a continental flood basalt, which only lasts for a few million years. Or it can maintain a continuous stream of magma to a fixed location; this is a hotspot.
As the lithosphere continues to move through plate tectonics, the hotspot appears to be shifting its position over millions of years. But really the hotspot is remaining in a fixed location, and the Earth’s plates are shifting above it. Three of the most famous places that might have mantle plumes underneath them are the Hawaiian Island, Iceland, Yellowstone


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