Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Hot Rock Keeps Earth Afloat

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Hot Rock Keeps Earth Afloat

Article excerpt

A University of Utah study shows how various regions of North America are kept afloat by heat within Earth's rocky crust, and how much of the continent would sink beneath sea level without heat to make rock buoyant.

Among coastal cities, New York City would sit 435 m under the Atlantic; Boston would be approximately 556 m deep; Miami would reside 735 m undersea; New Orleans would be 736 m underwater; Los Angeles would rest 1,145 m beneath the Pacific; Denver's elevation would be 222 m below sea level; and Salt Lake City, currently at 1,286 m, would sit beneath 394 m of water.

Other cities, however, would rise without the temperature effect. For instance, Seattle would soar to an elevation of 1,813 m. The study's researchers explain that the rock beneath Seattle is cooler than average for North America; removing the temperature difference would cause the rock to expand and become more buoyant. Some regions would remain at the same level, including the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascade Range.

"We have shown for the first time that temperature differences within the Earth's crust and upper mantle explain about half of the elevation of any given place in North America, with most of the rest due to differences in what the rocks are made of," says study coauthor, David Chapman, a professor of geology and geophysics, and dean of the University of Utah Graduate School. …

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