Home Features Best of 2011 Best of 2011 // 89: The Weather Can Move Continents

Best of 2011 // 89: The Weather Can Move Continents

Best of 2011 // 89: The Weather Can Move Continents

The movement of the Earth’s crust can create valleys, raise mountains and even reshape the coastline, all influencing our climate.  So, it was unexpected then, to find out that the connection runs both ways.  In April, scientists reported that rains have been the cause in accelerating India’s impending collision with China.

/READ MORE// Genome Changes in Days From Temperature

Over the past 10 million years, the Indian Plate – which is slowly pushing northward into Eurasia, having caused the formation of the Himalayan mountains – has sped up by about 2 percent.  Over that same period of time, monsoonal rains in the region have intensified.

By combining climate data with information about plate tectonic movements and running computer models based on that data, Giampiero Iaffaldano, a geophysicist with the Australian National University in Canberra noted that the monsoon rains are the likely cause of the acceleration.

Large, heavy landmasses, like the Himalayas slow the motion of tectonic plates – imagine trying to slide a heavy plate across a table.  Monsoons have been shaving away material from the Himalayas via erosion, reducing the weight of the mountain range and slowly making them weigh less and less.

Next Iaffaldano says he wants to tackle other mountainous regions, such as the Andes in South America, to see if a similar pattern is happening there as well.

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