Science & Technology
Geological 'secret passage' found beneath the Earth
By T.K. Randall
December 19, 2021 · 4 comments
There is more going on beneath our feet than we realize. Image Credit: USGS
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown opening situated 62 miles beneath the planet's surface.
Referred to as a geological 'secret passage', this mysterious opening in the Earth's middle layer has been discovered beneath Panama - a country with surprisingly few active volcanoes.
The region lies on a line of volcanoes known as the Central American Volcanic Arc which is produced by a subduction zone where the Cocos tectonic plate is pushing oceanic crust underneath the continental crust of the North American, Caribbean and Panama tectonic plates.
Panama, which lies along this zone, should have a significant amount of volcanism, however for some reason it is relatively quiet - a mystery that has left scientists scratching their heads for years.
Now though, it seems that the newly discovered opening in the Cocos tectonic plate may be enabling material to flow through from one side to the other, sparing Panama from the brunt of the activity.
This subterranean 'flow' also appears to make it possible for mantle material to flow to Panama all the way from the Galapagos Islands - a process that has never been seen before.
"Different sources of geological material typically have different compositions, so we can track the contribution from different regions of the mantle," geochemist David Bekaert told Live Science
"We found that in particular places of Central America, namely western Panama and behind the volcanic arc in Costa Rica, we have some exotic signatures [of geochemistry] that really resemble what you have in the Galapagos Islands."
Understanding the exact nature of the processes involved however will require much further study.
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