Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Lava mystery solved

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Tectonics
Great Rift Valley, Tanzania Great Rift Valley, Tanzania Shutterstock
01 Jun
2014
New study by researchers from Michigan State University solves long-standing mystery about the source of massive lava flows in Africa

‘For decades, there has been a big debate as to where the lavas from this massive outpouring came from,’ said Tyrone Rooney, who led the study. ‘Did they emit from deep within Earth or was there some contribution from shallower sources?’

Rooney and his team studied an ancient outpouring in the Great Rift Valley. About 30 million years ago, some 350,000 cubic kilometres of lava poured out across the region as the African tectonic plate broke apart. Using mass spectrometry, they determined the rocks’ chemical signatures, which allowed them to trace their origin.

The results indicated that an unusual group of lavas in Ethiopia was formed when part of the tectonic plate itself melted. These rocks had chemical signatures of materials found in the lithosphere and were distinctly different from most of the other rocks in Ethiopia.

They also found that the samples matched rocks collected from so-called basalt floods elsewhere, suggesting that these may also have a shallow source.

‘We’re interested in this because these massive outpourings happen around the same time continents break apart, create new oceans and affect the planet and the environment on a global scale,’ Rooney said. ‘So knowing the source of the lava gives us insights into a process that we still know little about.’

This story was published in the June 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

The prestigious photography awards to go on display in some…

Tectonics

The discovery of a slow-motion earthquake near Istanbul, which took…

Oceans

The 2014 to 2016 marine heatwave, which took place off…

Climate

Marco Magrini discovers that hydrogen is back, but hopefully not…

Wildlife

 A ten-year analysis of chimpanzees has revealed that the presence…

Wildlife

The return of the pine marten to UK forests has…

Energy

A project in Orkney is converting excess wind energy into…

Geophoto

Mountains provide a dramatic sight at the best of times,…

Wildlife

A surge in reports of dead hares has resulted in…

Oceans

Four scientists have banded together to make the case against the farming of octopuses, arguing…

Climate

As planetary oil consumption hits the 100-million-barrel mark Marco Magrini…

Oceans

A ship that ran aground early in February has been…

Wildlife

Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…

Geophoto

March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…

Wildlife

An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…

Polar

Despite common belief that Antarctica is vastly uninhabited, humans are…

Wildlife

Javan rhinos survived the recent Krakatoa tsunami, but the species…

Energy

As the world turns away from fossil fuels, one question…

Geophoto

The winners of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2018…

Climate

New legislation in Florida aims to solve various environmental issues,…