A study has shown that deformation on the surface of an area of the Andes Mountains in South America led to the absorption of a large part of the lithosphere below and the collapse of the Earth’s crust into the mantle, over the course of millions of years years.
According to the study, recently published in Communications Earth & Environment, this phenomenon is known as ‘lithospheric dripping’, a name derived from the fragmentation of the rocky material that makes up the Earth’s crust and upper mantle.
This long geological process, as it has been going on for millions of years, has led to the appearance of large surface deformations such as basins, crustal folding and irregular elevations.
It is a geological phenomenon in which a relatively cold, dense mass of lithosphere sinks into the more malleable upper mantle.
Although this process is a relatively new concept in the decades-old field of plate tectonics, many examples of “dripping lithosphere” have been identified around the world, including the Central Anatolian Plateau in Turkey and the Great Basin in the western United States States, on the other, but not limited to.
A research team led by earth scientists at the University of Toronto confirmed that several regions in the Central Andes Mountains in South America were formed in the same way, according to Russia Today.
“We confirmed that deformation at the surface of an area of the Andes led to the absorption of a large part of the lithosphere below,” said Julia Andersen, lead study author and a graduate student in geology at the University of Toronto. Canada, said. .
The “deformation” Andersen refers to was found in the Arezarro Basin and consists of folds that formed on the surface as the crust beneath disappeared.
This happens when the rocky crust heats up and thickens, eventually “dripping” into the mantle.
Andersen explained: “Given its high density, it drips like cold syrup or honey deep into the planet’s interior, and may be responsible for two major tectonic events in the central Andes: changing the surface topography of the region by hundreds of kilometers, and crushing and stretching the surface crust itself.”
To reach this conclusion, the scientists recreated the process in the laboratory, using a tank and layered materials as backup units for the lower mantle, upper mantle and crust.
“It was like creating and destroying mountain tectonic belts in a sandbox, floating in a simulated magma pool, all under incredibly accurate measurement conditions,” revealed Andersen.
The results of the model were then compared with geophysical and geological studies carried out in the central Andes, particularly in the Aresaro Basin, and the team found that changes in crustal height caused by dripping in the laboratory “strong changes in the height of the Aresaro follow River”.
“We also observed shortening of the folded crust in the model, as well as trough-like depressions on the surface, so we are confident that the drops are most likely the cause of the deformations observed in the Andes,” Andersen added.
Experiments have also shown other ways in which distillation of the lithosphere can distort the Earth’s crust. Not all of these have been observed in the Andes, suggesting that there may be other regions of the world where different types of drip can be observed, if we can identify them.
In turn, this also suggests that non-subduction processes may play a more important role than we realize in shaping the surface of our planet.
Currently, only lithosphere distillation has been identified on Earth, but scientists are confident that it can be detected in the future through modeling and experimentation on other planets that do not have plate tectonics, such as Mars and Venus.
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A study has shown that deformation on the surface of an area of the Andes Mountains in South America led to the absorption of a large part of the lithosphere below and the collapse of the Earth’s crust into the mantle, over the course of millions of years years. According to…
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