You may have heard that the Earth’s tectonic plates slide around, but, how do these hard rocks do that?
Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography discovered a layer of magma in the Earth’s mantle which may be acting as a lubricant to facilitate the slide of tectonic plates. They imaged a 15.5-mile thick layer of partially melted mantle rock below the edge of the Cocos plate where it moves under Central America.
There are two main layers of the mantle. The upper mantle, and the lower mantle. The upper mantle is mostly solid, and the lower mantle is partially molten (extremely viscous/barely liquid).
This lubricant discovery was made at the Middle America trench using electromagnetic imaging technology pioneered at Scripps as part of the SERPENT project.