Breaking Apart

Under the Indian ocean the tectonic plate is breaking into two, says a new study. This is happening to the India-Australia-Capricorn tectonic plate. It is happening at a snail’s pace that is about 0.06 inches a year. So it will take at least a million years to become two pieces.

Experts almost missed it as this is happening deep under the sea. The clue was provided by the two strong earthquakes originating in a strange spot in the Indian Ocean. On April 11, 2012, a magnitude-8.6 and magnitude-8.2 earthquake hit beneath the Indian Ocean, near Indonesia. The earthquakes didn’t happen in a subduction zone, where one tectonic plate slides under another. Instead, these quakes originated in a weird place for earthquakes to happen — in the middle of the plate.

When the dataset of the basin’s geography collected during different occasions were studied. It showed a fracture zone, a weakness in the oceanic crust. Also it was found that different parts of the India-Australia-Capricorn are moving at different speeds. So it was found that this fracture zone, once just a passive crack, is becoming the new boundary for the plate’s split into two pieces.

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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