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September 17 2013

Computer simulation sheds light on how Earth’s continents were born


New research led by a University of Calgary geophysicist provides strong evidence against continent formation above a hot mantle plume, similar to an environment that presently exists beneath the Hawaiian Islands.

The analysis, published Sept. 15 in Nature Geoscience, indicates that the nuclei of Earth’s continents formed as a byproduct of mountain-building processes, by stacking up slabs of relatively cold oceanic crust. This process created thick, strong “keels” in the Earth’s mantle that supported the overlying crust and enabled continents to form.

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