At first glance, the mountain ranges appear to be the result of a collision of the Earth’s tectonic plates. But new research in the Calabrian mountains in southern Italy suggests that deeper forces in the Earth’s mantle may also play an important role in the formation of the Earth’s crust.
A team of scientists studied the history of Calabria’s subduction zone for more than 30 million years. They analyzed the age and chemical composition of rock layers to compile a history of mountain uplift in this region.
The results showed that not all mountain uplifts are related to tectonic plate activity. Some uplifts may be caused by convection currents in the Earth’s mantle that affect tectonic activity above.
“Mountain formation is a fundamental process of Earth behavior, and this study shows that we may not understand it as well as we thought,” says Earth scientist Sean Gallen of Colorado State University.
The study combined multiple methods, such as thermochronology and a record of past sea levels left in the rock, to go back in time even further than previous methods. This allowed scientists to draw a more complete picture of the formation of the Earth’s crust.
Although the models used assume some assumption about what is going on underground, it seems to be a plausible explanation. More data from tectonic plate movement, mountain and rock uplift should tell us more.
It is interesting to note that this part of Italy is still geologically active, offering clues in the current landscape about its past. The researchers have made some of their modeling software available for use by other experts, and it is believed that the results obtained here can tell us more about the formation and height of mountains around the world.
It is worth keeping in mind that there are many forces and factors involved in mountain formation, as previous studies have shown. In addition to tectonic activity, the presence of miniaturized organisms, weathering and erosion are important.
“It seems to be driven by things that are much deeper in the Earth system. This behavior has been seen in models, but never in nature. We think we’re observing it for the first time,” Gallen concludes.