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November 12 2012

Intelligent Earth: Harvard researchers explain how post-tilt planet finds its way back


“For me, that’s the quirky, dynamic issue and the challenge of this. In fact, all of the classic papers in this field argue that when the pole moves, it loses all memory of its previous location. We’re saying that this is not the case. There is something in the system that tells it, ‘Here’s where you come back.’”

In explaining these remarkable episodes of polar wander, Mitrovica and Creveling also point to changes in the flow of the Earth’s mantle that occur during periods when tectonic plates come together to form supercontinents. The massive landmasses act like thermal blankets, and “it is at these times when the Earth will be provoked into a large true polar wander event,” Mitrovica said. “When a supercontinent exists, material rises up in the rocky mantle below the supercontinent, stretching the Earth out like a football and giving it a tendency to spin like a football.”

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