Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. Earth Science News .




TECTONICS
India joined with Asia 10 million years later than previously thought
by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 14, 2013


What we see of India's surface today is much smaller than it was 50 million years ago. It's not clear how much of India lies beneath Asia, but scientists believe the answer may come partly from knowing how fast the Indian plate migrates, and exactly when the continent collided with Asia.

The peaks of the Himalayas are a modern remnant of massive tectonic forces that fused India with Asia tens of millions of years ago. Previous estimates have suggested this collision occurred about 50 million years ago, as India, moving northward at a rapid pace, crushed up against Eurasia. The crumple zone between the two plates gave rise to the Himalayas, which today bear geologic traces of both India and Asia. Geologists have sought to characterize the rocks of the Himalayas in order to retrace one of the planet's most dramatic tectonic collisions.

Now researchers at MIT have found that the collision between India and Asia occurred only 40 million years ago - 10 million years later than previously thought. The scientists analyzed the composition of rocks from two regions in the Himalayas, and discovered evidence of two separate collisional events: As India crept steadily northward, it first collided with a string of islands 50 million years ago, before plowing into the Eurasian continental plate 10 million years later.

Oliver Jagoutz, assistant professor of geology in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says the results, which will be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, change the timeline for a well-known tectonic story.

"India came running full speed at Asia and boom, they collided," says Jagoutz, an author of the paper. "But we actually don't think it was one collision ... this changes dramatically the way we think India works."

'How great was Greater India?'
In particular, Jagoutz says, the group's findings may change scientists' ideas about the size of India before it collided with Asia. At the time of collision, part of the ancient Indian plate - known as "Greater India" - slid underneath the Eurasian plate.

What we see of India's surface today is much smaller than it was 50 million years ago. It's not clear how much of India lies beneath Asia, but scientists believe the answer may come partly from knowing how fast the Indian plate migrates, and exactly when the continent collided with Asia.

"The real question is, 'How great was Greater India?'" Jagoutz says. "If you know when India hit, you know the size of Greater India."

By dating the Indian-Eurasian collision to 10 million years later than previous estimates, Jagoutz and his colleagues conclude that Greater India must have been much smaller than scientists have thought.

"India moved more than 10 centimeters a year," Jagoutz says. "Ten million years [later] is 1,000 kilometers less in convergence. That is a real difference."

Leafing through the literature
To pinpoint exactly when the Indian-Eurasian collision occurred, the team first looked to a similar but more recent tectonic example. Over the last 2 million years, the Australian continental plate slowly collided with a string of islands known as the Sunda Arc. Geologists have studied the region as an example of an early-stage continental collision.

Jagoutz and his colleagues reviewed the geologic literature on Oceania's rock composition. In particular, the team looked for telltale isotopes - chemical elements that morph depending on factors like time and tectonic deformation. The researchers identified two main isotopic systems in the region's rocks: one in which the element lutetium decays to hafnium, and another in which samarium decays to neodymium. From their analysis of the literature, the researchers found that rocks high in neodymium and hafnium isotopes likely formed before Australia collided with the islands. Rocks high in neodymium and hafnium probably formed after the collision.

Heading to the Himalayas
Once the team identified the isotopic signatures for collision, it looked for similar signatures in rocks gathered from the Himalayas.

Since 2000, Jagoutz has trekked to the northwest corner of the Himalayas, a region of Pakistan and India called the Kohistan-Ladakh Arc. This block of mountains is thought to have been a string of islands that was sandwiched between the two continents as they collided. Jagoutz traversed the mountainous terrain with pack mules and sledgehammers, carving out rock samples from the region's northern and southern borders. His team has brought back three tons of rocks, which he and his colleagues analyzed for signature isotopes.

The researchers split the rocks, and separated out more than 3,000 zircons - micron-long crystals containing isotopic ratios. Jagoutz and his colleagues first determined the age of each zircon using another isotopic system, in which uranium turns slowly to lead with time. The team then measured the ratios of strontium to neodymium, and lutetium to hafnium, to determine the presence of a collision, keeping track of where each zircon was originally found (along the region's northern or southern border).

The team found a very clear signature: Rocks older than 50 million years contained exactly the same ratio of isotopes in both the northern and southern samples. However, Jagoutz found that rocks younger than 50 million years, along the southern boundary of the Kohistan-Ladakh Arc, suddenly exhibited a range of isotopic ratios, indicating a dramatic tectonic event. Along the arc's northern boundary, the same sudden change in isotopes occurs, but only in rocks younger than 40 million years.

Taken together, the evidence supports a new timeline of collisional events: Fifty million years ago, India collided with a string of islands, pushing the island arc northward. Ten million years later, India collided with the Eurasian plate, sandwiching the string of islands, now known as the Kohistan-Ladakh Arc, between the massive continents.

"If you actually go back in the literature to the 1970s and '80s, people thought this was the right way," Jagoutz says. "Then somehow the literature went in another direction, and people largely forgot this possibility. Now this opens up a lot of new ideas."

.


Related Links
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tectonic Science and News






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





TECTONICS
Stress change during the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 14, 2013
The 11 March 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake (Mw9.0) produced the largest slip ever recorded in an earthquake, over 50 meters. Such huge fault movement on the shallow portion of the megathrust boundary came as a surprise to seismologists because this portion of the subduction zone was not thought to be accumulating stress prior to the earthquake. In a recently published study, scientists from t ... read more


TECTONICS
Aid trickles into tsunami-hit Solomons despite aftershocks

Smartphones, tablets help UW researchers improve storm forecasts

Rescuers struggle to aid Solomons quake victims

HDT Global Awarded Guardian Angel Air-Deployable Rescue Vehicle Contract

TECTONICS
Indra Develops The First High-Resolution Passive Radar System

ORNL scientists solve mercury mystery

3D Printing on the Micrometer Scale

Nextdoor renovates before taking on the world

TECTONICS
New Zealand dolphin faces extinction, group warns

Nothing fishy about swimming with same-sized mates

Large water loss detected in Mideast river basins: study

Balancing Biodiversity And Development In Small Fishing Communities

TECTONICS
Sunlight stimulates release of carbon dioxide from permafrost

Volcano location could be greenhouse-icehouse key

Features Of Southeast European Human Ancestors Influenced By Lack Of Episodic Glaciations

Polar bear researchers urge governments to act now and save the species

TECTONICS
X-rays reveal uptake of nanoparticles by soya bean crops

Widely used nanoparticles enter soybean plants from farm soil

Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae

Pioneering Finns share leftovers to cut waste

TECTONICS
Shimmering water reveals cold volcanic vent in Antarctic waters

Cargo container research to improve buildings' ability to withstand tsunamis

Powerful aftershocks rattle Solomon Islands

Hoodoos - key to earthquakes?

TECTONICS
Jane Goodall: chimp scientist turned activist

Plane carrying Guinea army delegation crashes in Liberia

Ghana extradites ex-military chief to I. Coast: security

Sudan president in Eritrea after Asmara mutiny: reports

TECTONICS
UF researchers include humans in most comprehensive tree of life to date

The last Neanderthals of southern Iberia did not coexist with modern humans

Computer helping save lost languages

Archaic Native Americans built massive Louisiana mound in less than 90 days




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement