moving mountains

The erosion caused by rainfall directly affects the movement of continental plates beneath mountain ranges, says a University of Toronto geophysicist — the first time science has raised the possibility that human-induced climate change could affect the deep workings of the planet.

“In geology, we have this idea that erosion’s going to affect merely the surface,” says Russell Pysklywec, a professor of geology who creates computer models where he can control how a range of natural processes can create and modify mountains over millions of years.

“These are tiny, tiny changes on the surface, but integrating them over geologic time scales affects the roots of the mountains, as opposed to just the top of them,” says Pysklywec. “It goes right down to the mantle thermal engine — the thing that’s actually driving plate tectonics. It’s fairly surprising — it hasn’t been shown before.”

Eureka Alert, 20 Apr 2006