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The Earth's Mantle

For some time now, scientists have understood that the earth's crust is divided into plates that move about at the rate of a few inches a year. Over time, this movement will form mountain ranges and volcanoes. They have also known that the earth's mantle, the layer between the earth's crust and core, was the major player in the movement of the plates.

Scientists talk about the mantle as a kind of weather system. There are cooler and warmer sections of the mantle that are in constant flux with one another, much like gathering storm clouds. These subterranean storms miles below the earth's surface, though very slow in development, can eventually exert powerful force on the earth's crust.

Now, however, with the help of sophisticated computers, scientists have discovered what seem to be superplumes, more intense thunderstorms, if you will. The computers produced 3D images of the mantle that suggest the existence of a superplume under Africa and possibly another one under the Pacific. Some scientists suggest that these superplumes may be responsible for the strange shape of the Hawaii-Emperor seamount chain on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

This long chain of undersea mountains, formed over time as the crust moved across a hot spot in the mantle, makes a sharp 45 degree turn around Midway Island. The scientists propose that these superplumes may be responsible for pushing the crustal plates to the point of making them reverse directions.

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