21st century, meet plate tectonics
April 19, 2010 by CF
The recent eruption of an Icelandic volcano has made news around the world as flights are disrupted, political get-togethers are cancelled and thick clouds of smoke cover the skies in many areas of Iceland.
Is it 2012 two years early?!
Remember those science classes in elementary school where you learned about dinosaurs and natural disasters and coloured in endless maps of the world? Well, it’s time to dig out those maps and review your notes on plate tectonics.
Plate tectonics refers to an area of science dealing with the large scale movement of the Earth’s “lithospheric mantle”, or crust. Tectonic plates move around – this is why we get earthquakes, for example. The type of tectonic plates we are concerned with here are oceanic crusts.
Oceanic crusts are created at mid-ocean ridges. This is where two plates are diverging, or moving away from each other. As the plates move apart, magma from the centre of the Earth rises to the surface and erupts as lava. In other words, mid-ocean ridges are like undersea volcanic mountain ranges.
Iceland has the notable distinction of sitting directly on top of this ridge, and indeed, containing parts of it! Presumeably, these two plates have shifted enough that magma is now able to rise to the surface, causing the eruptions and glacial melting that we read about in the news today.