My Blogs (olelog) are mainly based on my daily reading of earth science news.
Here on whatonearth.olehnielsen.dk I try to weave some of the pieces together to a greater whole with added background info.
The Antarctic Plate has a boundary with the Nazca Plate, the South American Plate, the African Plate, the Australian Plate, the Scotia Plate and a divergent boundary with the Pacific Plate forming the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge.
The Bellingshausen Plate was an ancient tectonic plate that fused on to the Antarctic Plate. It is named after the Russian explorer of Antarctica Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (cf. Bellingshausen Sea).
The plate was in existence during the Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary periods adjacent to eastern Marie Byrd Land. Independent plate motion ceased at 61 mya. The boundaries are poorly defined.
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
Now that the Antarctic ice is melting away it may be relevant to ask why, how and when the Antartic ice was formed in the first place.
More than 30 million years ago rapid cooling seemed to have swept over Antartica replacing boreal pine forest with ice and snow, and by 33.6 million years ago Antarctica is known to have been covered with ice. This shows that the position on the South pole is only part of the story.
About 34 million years ago our planet underwent a so-called 'greenhouse to icehouse transition'. Earth went from having virtually no ice on it at all to one with a more or less permanent ice sheet covering Antartica.
The Antarctic ice sheet may have been initiated by a drop in greenhouse gas concentration in combination with a change in ocean circulation.
Today the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the most important current in the Southern Ocean, and the only current that flows completely around the globe. The ACC transports more water than any other ocean current. It extends from the sea surface to depths of 2000-4000 m and can be as wide as 2000 km. This cold current (shown in blue) isolates Antartica from any warm (red) current transporting heat southwards.
This has nor always been the case. Sometimes all continents were united in one big supercontinent. One such supercontinent was Gondwana. 200 million years ago Antarctica was near the equator and surrounded on three sides by Australia, India, Africa, and South America. About 160 million years ago the supercontinent Gondwana began to break apart in bits and pieces that slowly drifted towards their present locations around the world.
50 million years ago Antarctica was not yet separated from South America and Australia, and the warm currents (shown in red) could still reach the coasts of Antarctica. When the seaways between Antarctica and respectively South America and Australia opened deep enough to allow the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to pass around Antarctica has been somewhat controversial.
Drilling cores from The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) indicated that the Tasmanian Gateway opened between 37 and 33.5 million years ago. The fact that estimates of the age of the Drake Passage ranged from 49 millions to 17 million years ago complicated interpretations of the relationship between ocean circulation and global cooling. If the opening of the Drake Passage took place much later than the opening of the Tasmanian Gareway, then the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has nothing to do with the sudden cooling of Antarctica about 34 million years ago.
Findings from a study reported in the journal Science of 21 April 2006 and based on Nd (neodynium) isotopes in fish teeth found downstream from the drake Passage indicate however that the pasage must have begun to open 41 million years ago. This report therefore concludes that yhe opening of the drake Passage preceded the opening of the last remaining corridor, the Tasmanian gateway, around 35 million years ago, and major ice sheets growth in Antarctica, which began around 34 million years ago.
Antarctic Ice and Plate Tectonics of Tuesday, 30 May 2006 http://my.opera.com/nielsol/blog/show.dml/276496
Last modified on
If you have any problems with this page or wish to comment on the site, please e-mail the webmaster