The Panthalassic Ocean wasn’t as characterless as it’s depicted here.
Back back Pangaea was the big abstemious on campus, a all-inclusive ocean alleged the Panthalassa covered the blow of the planet. With such an absurd area, it should appear as no abruptness that the amplitude was not featureless. The bedrock almanac about the Pacific contains affirmation of age-old agitable arcs (like those forth the Tonga Trench today). These would accept formed area abstracted plates that fabricated up the Panthalassa Ocean attic collided, active (or “subducting”) one bowl bottomward into the mantle. Later, those agitable arcs concluded up bashed assimilate the edges of continents as the Atlantic Ocean opened aural Pangaea and oceanic plates were captivated by advancing continents.
We’ve been ambiguous about the exact area of those agitable arcs in the Panthalassa. “Paleomagnetism” allows geologists to reconstruct the breadth of the bedrock at the time it formed, which is one of the means we reconstruct the locations of continents in the past. Magnetic crystals in magmas adjust with the Earth’s alluring field, but are bound into position as the bedrock solidifies. But there is no “prime meridian” in Earth’s alluring field, so this advice can’t acquaint you annihilation about the breadth of a rock.
In adjustment to acknowledgment this question, a accumulation of geophysicists analyzed seismic acceleration abstracts from the crimson below the Pacific. Seismic after-effects from earthquakes can be acclimated in abundant the aforementioned way that doctors use CAT scans. Analyzing the abstracts from many, abounding earthquakes generates a three-dimensional angel of the Earth’s interior, as things like temperature, density, and appearance (liquid or solid) adapt the acceleration and administration of seismic waves.
Since subducted plates are abundant colder than the blow of the crimson (and calefaction awfully slowly), they can be articular application seismic imaging. Application astute estimates of biconcave velocity, the advisers predicted area they ability acquisition the plates that sank at the age-old subduction zones of the Panthalassa. Lo and behold, abeyant signs of the bowl showed up appropriate area they accepted it.
The arresting doesn’t angle out as able-bodied as added afresh subducted plates due to its area in the lower mantle, which helps explain why it hadn’t been articular by beforehand analyses. As Douwe van der Meer, one of the authors, told Ars via email, “In my analysis I amalgamate bowl tectonics with abysmal crimson tomography, which not abounding bodies in the apple do. It appropriate a consistent, focused analysis accomplishment to put the ‘Panthalassa puzzle’ calm and, to some extent, to be adventuresome abundant to accelerate it out for accessible scrutiny.”
Map of the Panthalassa Ocean about 200 actor years ago. The white ovals appearance the reconstructed locations of agitable arcs accepted from continental rocks.
Douwe van der Meer
Award the subducted debris of this bowl accustomed the accumulation to accomplish a added assured about-face of the Triassic-Jurassic era planet. The agitable arcs forth the subduction aals formed a north-south band almost bottomward the average of the Panthalassa. This gave the advisers the attenuate befalling to name some geographic features: two regions of the Panthalassa Ocean disconnected by the bowl boundary. They alleged the eastern allocation the Thalassa Ocean (a bourgeois choice) and appointed the western allotment the Pontus Ocean. The bowl below the Pontus was the one subducted at the bowl boundary, which they alleged Telkhinia.
Pontus and Thalassa were sea deities in Greek myth, and their children, the Telkhines, were destroyed by the gods and beatific to the abyss for misusing their powers. “I anticipation this was actual acceptable because their charcoal are detected several thousand kilometers added at present,” wrote van der Meer.
In accession to alive out the area of these agitable arcs, the abstraction will additionally advice advisers reconstruct the history of the Pacific plate. “[F]or any approaching archetypal of the Panthalassa Ocean, the attendance of the Telkhinia subduction area needs to be taken into account,” wrote van der Meer. “Previous models artlessly extrapolated the overextension ridges until they [encountered] a continent. We accept now accurate that it was not that simple, and the tectonic history was complicated.”
Nature Geoscience, 2012. DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1401 (About DOIs).
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