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No. 103: Jan-Feb 1996

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Fossil Mantle Plume Under South America

"In a challenge to a major aspect of the theory of plate tectonics, NSF-supported scientists have discovered the presence of an ancient conduit deep in the Earth's mantle beneath Brazil.

"The conduit appears to have remained geographically fixed with respect to the overlying continent despite thousands of kilometers of South American plate motion. This observation runs contrary to a major tenet of plate tectonic theory -- that the motion of lithospheric plates is essentially independent of flow in the upper mantle beneath the plates -- and implies that the upper mantle and the overlying South American continent have remained coupled since the breakup of the Gondwanaland super-continent and opening of the South Atlantic Ocean some 120 million years ago. This result also implies that large-scale convection in the mantle may be responsible for the motion of the great continental plates, such as South America, where the driving force for plate motion has not been well understood."

(Dybas, Cheryl; NSFNEWS Digest 54, November 8, 1995. Cr. D. Swaner. NSF= National Science Foundation. The cyber-address for the NSFNEWS Digest is: nsfnews@nsf.gov

The computerless may read more in: VanDecar, John C., et al; "Seismic Evidence for a Fossil Mantle Plume beneath South America and Implications for Plate Driving Forces," Nature, 378:25, 1995.

From Science Frontiers #103, JAN-FEB 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987