The terrestrial tectonic plates began moving more than 3.2 billion years ago – just over 1.3 billion years after the Earth first formed and thought earlier than originally thought.
The outer shell of the Earth is divided into seven major tectonic plates and many smaller ones move between 0.4 inches and 6.2 inches per year.
A team of geologists from & # 39; Harvard University began to find out just how early in & # 39; The history of Earth's tectonic activity – that is, plate motion – began to happen.
Stones in Western Australia, one of & # 39; oldest pieces of & # 39; an earthquake, showing evidence of drift of about one inch in a year – beginning 3.2 billion years ago.
There are a range of theories about just when tectonic activity on Earth began – from as late as 1 billion years ago to 3 billion years ago – this new research marks the beginning of movement about 200 million years earlier than the oldest rumors.
n artistic cross section by forming crust about 3-4 billion years ago. The presence or absence of flat tectonics at this time is a subject of vigorous scientific debate
The research team, led by Alec Brenner of Harvard, searched for indications of tectonic activity in ancient rocks in more than 3 billion-year-old Australian rocks.
The researchers believe that this shift is the earliest evidence that modern-era plate movement occurred earlier in & # 39; evolution of & # 39; e Earth then first realized.
They also believe that it shows that the ancient Earth in its structure was very similar to the world we know today.
It adds to growing research that tectonic movement occurred on early Earth and was much more equal to modern movements than assumed.
Researchers studied rocks from & # 39; e Pilbara Craton, an old and stable part of & # 39; e continental lithosphere in Pilbara, Western Australia.
The lithosphere is the rigid outer shell of the Earth of which the plates form part and is a mix of ocean and continental shell – each covered by their own type of crust.
Roger Fu, an author on & # 39; studies, poses for an outcrop of & # 39; e Honeyeater Basalt in Pilbara Craton of Western Australia. The ancient rocks exposed here showed the authors of a study that the Pilbara Craton moved over the Earth's surface over 3.2 billion years ago
& # 39; In principle, this is one piece of geological evidence to extend the record of flat tectonics on Earth further into & # 39; e Earth History, & # 39; said Brenner, a paper co-author.
& # 39; Based on the evidence we found, it seems that plate tectonics is a much more likely process on & # 39; an early Earth happened and that argues for an Earth that is much more like today's than many people think. & # 39;
Plate tectonics are key to the evolution of life and the evolution of the planet.
Today, the outer shell of the & # 39; Earth consists of about 15 rigid blocks of crust that cover the & # 39; s continents and oceans. housing the planet, say the researchers.
The movement of these plates formed the location of the continents and helped to form new – as well as unique, landforms such as mountain ranges.
It also exposed new rocks to & # 39; atmosphere, which led to chemical reactions that & # 39; did not exceed the surface temperature of & # 39; stabilized an earth.
A stable climate is crucial to the evolution of life, the team wrote.
When the first shifts happened, it has long been a problem of much debate in geology and so any information that is light is valuable again.
The study, published on Earth Day, helps fill in some holes and suggests the early life forms developed in a more modern environment.
& # 39; We try to understand the geophysical principles that drive & # 39; the Earth, & # 39; said Roger Fu, one of the & # 39; s co-authors of the paper.
He said flat tectonics is responsible for elements for bikes that aren't needed for life in the Earth and out of the hair.
It is a process that also helps in understanding other planets in the solar system and in exoplanets outside our own star.
& # 39; At present, Earth is the only known planetary body that has robust place tectonics of any kind, & # 39; said Brenner, of & # 39; the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
& # 39; It really needs us as we look for planets in other solar systems to understand the very set of processes that led to flat tectonics on Earth and what driving forces took it to initiate it, & # 39; he said.
& # 39; That would hopefully give us a sense of how easy it is to happen to plate tectonics in other worlds, especially considering all the connections between plate tectonics, the evolution of life and the stabilization of the climate. & # 39;
A geological map of the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia. The rocks exposed here range from 2.5 to 3.5 billion years ago, and offer a unique well-preserved window into the deep past of the Earth
Members of the project team traveled to Pilbara Craton in Western Australia.
A craton is a primordial, thick, and very stable piece of crust. They are usually found in & # 39; middle of tectonic plates & are the ancient hearts of & # 39; e continents of & # 39; the earth.
These features make them the natural place to go to study the Earth.
The Pilbara Craton stretches for about 300 miles, occupying nearly the same area as the state of Pennsylvania.
In 2017, Fu and Brenner took samples from a section called the Honeyeater Basalt by drilling into rocks and collecting core samples over an inch wide.
Fu and Brenner's work differs from most studies in that scientists focused on measuring & # 39; e position of & # 39; rocks in & # 39; over time, while other work tends to focus on chemical structures in & # 39; e rocks that do not suggest tectonic motion.
Researchers used the novel Quantum Diamond Microscope to confirm their findings from 3.2 billion years ago.
The microscope illustrates the magnetic fields and particles of a sample. It was developed in collaboration between researchers at Harvard and MIT.
In the paper, the researchers indicated that they were unable to pronounce a phenomenon called & # 39; true polar swander & # 39 ;.
It can also cause the earth's surface to shift. Their results indicate more direct flat tectonic movement due to the time interval of this geological movement.
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.
The Earth moves under our feet: Tectonic plates move through the mantle and produce earthquakes as they scrape against each other
Tectonic plates are composed of & # 39; Earth's crust and the upper part of & # 39; a cloak.
Below is the asthenosphere: the warm, viscous conveyor belt of rock on which tectonic plates ride.
The Earth has fifteen tectonic plates (pictured) that together form the landscape that we see around us today
Earthquakes typically occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates, where one plate dips below the other, protrudes the other, as the flat edges scrape next to each other.
Earthquakes rarely occur in the middle of plates, but they can happen when old faults re-activate as shrinkage far below the surface.
These areas are relatively weak compared to the surrounding plate, and can easily slip and cause an earthquake.
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