The World on Water
Reported February 2008
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- You may know how mountains formed, but do you know why they stay high up in the sky?
Our mountain ranges show off some of the most majestic views around. We know collisions of the earth's crustal plates formed mountains like these, but now geophysicists say there's another reason some regions in the US sit higher than others.
"We now have an explanation for elevation for the continents, knowing that it's not just what types of rocks they're made of … it's also how hot each region is," Derrick Hasterok, Ph.D. student at University of Utah, told Ivanhoe.
New findings reveal that most of North America is kept afloat by heat within Earth's rocky crust and deeper mantle -- and if not for the heat, much of our continent would sink below sea level.
"What we found out is that when you heat the continents they also expand and part of the consequence of that is that they sit up higher," David Chapman, Ph.D., geophysicist at the University of Utah, said.
The heat and temperature inside earth are critical for places like the rocky mountains, because it's warmer and more buoyant underneath, pushing the rockies up. But underneath lower coastal cities like New York and LA, it's cooler, less buoyant, with lower elevations.
"The heat is caused by largely by radioactivity, which has a very very long time scale, so no one is going to sink into the ocean because of our discovery," Dr. Chapman said.
The American Geophysical Union contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Dr. David S. Chapman
Salt Lake City, UT
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
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