General, Research, Technology

Why is the distance between Europe and America increasing?

Scientists recently found out that the distance betweenthe American continents and Europe annually increases by about 4 centimeters. This means that the Atlantic Ocean is expanding all the time, which scientists have guessed for a long time. The increase in the distance between the continents is due to the fact that they are located on different lithospheric plates, which are in constant motion. Previously, it was believed that two lithospheric plates diverge in different directions because heavy rocks constantly seep between them and thereby push them. But the strangeness lies in the fact that in the Atlantic Ocean there are no heavy and easily penetrating rocks into the depths of our planet. Scientists have long been interested in what exactly makes America move away from Europe, and recently they have seriously taken up the study of this issue. To do this, they lowered many seismometers into the ocean, which are able to tell about the processes taking place in the depths of our planet.

The distance between continents is increasing, but why?

The movement of lithospheric plates

The results of the scientific work carried out werepublished in the scientific journal Nature. To begin with, it is worthwhile to understand that Europe is located on the Eurasian lithospheric plate, and North and South America - on the North American and South American lithospheric plates. It's simple. Between them is the so-called Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a chain of high mountains that are hidden by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The existence of this ridge became known in 1872, during an expedition on the Challenger ship. The goal of the scientists was to study whether a telegraph cable could be laid under the ocean. They completed their task and, in addition, made a very important discovery for the scientific community.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is in the middle and shown in red

At the beginning of the article, we have already found out that at the bottomThere are no heavy rocks in the Atlantic Ocean that could push the American continents and Eurasia in different directions. To find out the real cause of this phenomenon, a group of British scientists lowered 39 seismometers into the ocean, which were able to tell about the processes that occur at a depth of 410-600 kilometers. It turned out that the continents diverge due to the fact that between the plates there is a "swelling" of the mantle - the layer of our planet, which is located below the crust, that is, the uppermost shell. This layer occupies 80% of the Earth's volume and all processes occurring in it affect the appearance of the planet.

See also: What is inside the Earth?

What is changing the face of the Earth?

According to study author Mike Kendall(Mike Kendall), the result of their work greatly changes the idea of ​​scientists about the reasons for the movement of lithospheric plates. Previously, it was believed that in places like the Atlantic Ocean, the continents diverge due to heavy rocks. It is now known that other forces play an important role in this process. However, scientists have long known that the movement of lithospheric plates occurs due to the fact that their uneven lower part firmly adheres to the mantle, which cannot stand still. It is because of these processes that our planet today looks completely different from millions of years ago, in the days of the dinosaurs.

You can find out how the Earth looked like millions of years ago on the Ancient Earth Globe

We can say with a great deal of confidence that inthe future of our planet will also change. And the reason for this will be not only the movement of lithospheric plates. Regular readers of our site are already well aware that the effects of global warming are already being observed on our planet due to environmental pollution. And this is not only about the disappearance of entire species of animals and regular fires. Glaciers are melting in colder parts of our planet due to the constant rise in average air temperature. When they melt, they raise the level of the world's oceans, which in the future may leave many coastal cities under water. Already in 2050, China's Shanghai, where a lot of people live, may be flooded. You can read more about this danger at this link - my colleague Lyubov Sokovikova explained everything in detail.

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And all this is far from a joke, because somecities have long been under water. For example, in Egypt there is a city of Heraklion, which can only be visited in a diving suit. It was discovered only in 2000 by underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio at a depth of 10 meters. The study of this city is still ongoing, and relatively recently, a sunken temple and a ship with treasures were found there. If interested, read this article.