The Birth and Death of a Tectonic Plate

Ocean-bottom seismometers aboard the R/V Welcoma were deployed in the first year of the Cascadia Initiative. Photo credit: Dave O'Gorman title=
The Birth and Death of a Tectonic Plate
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Source: UCSB Public Affairs

Attenuation values recorded at ocean-bottom stations. Radial spokes show individual arrivals at their incoming azimuth; central circles show averages at each stations

Several hundred miles off the Pacific Northwest coast, a small tectonic plate called the Juan de Fuca is slowly sliding under the North American continent. This subduction has created a collision zone with the potential to generate huge earthquakes and accompanying tsunamis, which happen when faulted rock abruptly shoves the ocean out of its way. 

In fact, this region represents the single greatest geophysical hazard to the continental United States; quakes centered here could register as hundreds of times more damaging than even a big temblor on the San Andreas Fault. Not surprisingly, scientists are interested in understanding as much as they can about the Juan de Fuca Plate.

This microplate is “born” just 300 miles off the coast, at a long range of underwater volcanoes that produce new crust from melt generated deep below. Part of the global mid-ocean ridge system that encircles the planet, these regions generate 70 percent of the Earth’s tectonic plates. However, because the chains of volcanoes lie more than a mile beneath the sea surface, scientists know surprisingly little about them.

To view the complete story, go to http://www.news.ucsb.edu/2017/017991/birth-and-death-tectonic-plate

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