The Atlantic Ocean is widening due to a geological phenomenon
An increase in matter from deep within the earth’s crust may be pushing the continents of North and South America away from Europe and Africa, according to new research.
The tectonic plates located in America are moving four centimeters a year away from those of Europe and Africa. Between these continents is the Mid-Atlantic Chain, a place where new plates are formed.
In the Mid-Atlantic Cordillera, there are large submerged mountain ranges, called crest, which result from the slow removal of tectonic plates, those that move west and those that move east. Below that ridge, the material rises to replace the space left by the plates when they separate.
Plate tectonics also have an impact on sea level and therefore affect estimates of climate change on geological time scales.
This process is generally driven by distant forces of gravity as the densest parts of the plates sink back into the Earth. However, the driving force behind the separation of the Atlantic plates remains a mystery, because the Atlantic Ocean is not surrounded by dense plates that sink into the Earth’s mantle.
Now a team of seismologists, led by the University of Southampton, has found evidence of a resurgence of material between the earth’s crust and its core (the mantle) more than 600 km below the mid-Atlantic crest, which may be pushing the plates down, causing the continents to move further apart. But it is believed that resurgence below the mountain ranges may originate at much shallower depths, of about 60 km.