Unlocking the mystery: how diamonds come to the Earth’s surface

Diamonds, the precious stones that have mesmerized people for centuries, have always been shrouded in mystery. These exquisite stones, formed under immense pressure in the Earth’s interior, are believed to be hundreds, if not billions, of years old. But how do they get to the surface? This question has puzzled scientists for many years, but it has not yet been solved.

A groundbreaking study led by the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham has unlocked the secret of how diamond-rich magmas erupt from deep within the Earth. The researchers found that tectonic plate rupture plays a key role in this process.

Experts used statistical analysis and machine learning algorithms to study the connection between continental breakup and kimberlite volcanism, where diamonds are usually found. The results of the study showed that most kimberlite eruptions occurred 20-30 million years after the initial tectonic fault.

Study co-author Stephen Jones, associate professor of Earth systems at Birmingham, explains, “We found that the domino effect can explain how continental rifting leads to the formation of kimberlite magma. During rifting, a small section of the continental root is disrupted and sinks into the mantle beneath it, causing a chain of similar flows beneath the neighboring continent.”

By analyzing geospatial data, the researchers found that kimberlite eruptions gradually migrate from the edges of continents to their interior over time. This pattern prompted them to study the geologic processes responsible for this phenomenon.

The experts found that rifting, or stretching, of the Earth’s crust can lead to disturbances in the Earth’s mantle even thousands of kilometers away. These disturbances cause a domino effect that eventually leads to the eruption of diamond-rich magmas.

Lead author of the study Tom Gernon, associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Southampton, notes: “The pattern of diamond eruption is cyclical; it mimics the rhythm of supercontinents, which assemble and disintegrate in a pattern that repeats over time. But we didn’t previously know what process causes diamonds to suddenly erupt after spending millions – or billions – of years beneath the Earth’s surface at a depth of 150 kilometers.”

These groundbreaking discoveries not only shed light on the formation and eruption of diamonds, but also have practical implications. The ability to determine the locations and timing of past volcanic eruptions associated with these processes could lead to the discovery of new diamond deposits.

Diamond deposits are mainly found in kimberlite pipes, which are of volcanic origin. These pipes originate deep in the Earth’s mantle, more than 100 miles below the surface, where conditions are optimal for diamond formation.

In conclusion, this study has solved the long-standing mystery of how diamonds get to the Earth’s surface. Having understood the role of tectonic plate rupture and the domino effect it causes, scientists will now be able to study diamond deposits in greater depth. According to lead author Tom Gernon, “We have finally unlocked the secrets of these gems that have been hidden beneath our feet for millions of years.”

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