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One of the largest nations in the world might be splitting into two, claims a new study

A new theory suggests that the tectonic plate on which the nation exists might be splitting into horizontal layers beneath the surface.

One of the largest nations in the world might be splitting into two, claims a new study
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Suket Dedhia

It is a commonly known fact that our planet is constantly changing either through the movement of tectonic plates or through climate change and several other factors. However, research reveals that a part of the Indian tectonic plate might be splitting into two. Interestingly, the plate is not splitting vertically, separating the two halves sideways. Instead, it might be splitting horizontally or in layers. All of this started 60 million years ago when the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate. That led to the formation of the Himalayas, as per Science.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Prakash Aryal
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Prakash Aryal

Some scientists tend to believe that the Indian plate resists plunging into the mantle and instead scrapes horizontally, reports Popular Mechanics. Another group believes that the plate is plunging into magma gradually. However, a third group has come up with an all-new theory that states that the Indian plate is splitting horizontally and while the top part is scraping against the Eurasian plate the bottom part is plunging into the magma or subducting. The findings were presented in December 2023 at the American Geophysical Union conference and published in a non-peer-reviewed preprint in the ESS Open Archive.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro Studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Cottonbro Studio

The plate's top part is delaminating into the Eurasian plate while the thick bottom part is plunging into the mantle. This is a process that the scientists have caught onto for the first time. “We didn’t know continents could behave this way and that is, for solid earth science, pretty fundamental,” Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geodynamicist at Utrecht University, told Science. This new development will give scientists and researchers new insight into the formation of the Himalayas and help them understand the earthquakes happening in the region better. The two splitting plates could be 60 miles or 100 km thick as per IFLScience.

As it is not possible to go 62 miles beneath the surface of the planet to figure out what is going on, scientists have to look for hints. The most recent proposition has reportedly come about due to the bubbling helium springs. Fabio Capitanio, a geodynamicist at Monash University, also pointed out the uncertainty of the process due to limited methods of data collection. “It’s just a snapshot,” he said. “It’s definitely the type of work that we need to move.”


Scientists have known about the possibility of the process for a long time now. It has been accepted that a continental plate, especially in its weakened parts, could split like that. However, it has only been recreated on computer models. “This is the first time that... it’s been caught in the act in a downgoing plate,” Hinsbergen said.

Study author Simon Klemperer, a geophysicist at Stanford University, pointed out that the new tear could influence earthquake hazards in the Tibetan region. A deep fracture in the Tibetan Plateau known as the Cona-Sangri rift is above the tear and suggests that the tumults in the bottom of the Indian plate might somehow come up to the top influencing how stress builds and leading to earthquakes, explained Hinsbergen. Because of the ancient overlapping scars that built the modern landscapes, continents can be challenging to study, said Klemper. “They have this palimpsest of a billion years of history," he expressed. Hence, scientists are always learning something new about what goes on miles under the surface.


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