New research sheds light on a captivating geological phenomenon: the explosive eruption of diamonds from deep within the Earth’s crust during the breakup of supercontinents. This fascinating process, which propels diamonds to the surface through eruptions known as kimberlites, has been unraveled by experts in the field.
The Sparkling Process
Diamonds, formed approximately 93 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, are rapidly propelled upwards during kimberlite eruptions. These eruptions, reaching speeds of 11 to 83 mph (18 to 133 km/h), may be accompanied by explosive events akin to Mount Vesuvius-like eruptions, as stated by Thomas Gernon, a distinguished Earth and climate science professor at the University of Southampton.
Tectonic Movements and Kimberlite Correlations
A significant correlation between kimberlite eruptions and tectonic plate movements has been observed by researchers. Specifically, these eruptions tend to occur during periods of supercontinent fragmentation, such as the well-known breakup of Pangaea. Interestingly, these eruptions frequently transpire within the interiors of continents, contrary to the edges of tectonic plate shifts.
The Unveiling of Patterns
By scrutinizing the ages of kimberlites and the extent of plate fragmentation, scientists have discerned patterns over the past 500 million years. An intriguing trend emerges: tectonic plates commence their separation, and approximately 22 to 30 million years later, kimberlite eruptions reach their zenith. This pattern, evident over both 1 billion and 500 million years, reinforces the connection between supercontinent disintegration and diamond eruptions.
The Journey to the Center
As supercontinents fragment, the base of the continental crust becomes thinner due to stretching, and this triggers a sequence of events. Hot rock ascends, interacts with the disrupted boundary, cools, and descends, initiating localized circulation. These unstable regions propagate towards the continent’s center, aligning with the observed pattern of kimberlite eruptions starting at rift zones and progressing towards the land’s interior.
The Explosive Blend
Computer models of the deep crust and upper mantle have been pivotal in uncovering how these instabilities drive explosive eruptions. The mingling of materials – including water, carbon dioxide, and essential kimberlite minerals, such as diamonds – generates a dynamic and buoyant mixture. This analogy is akin to the effervescence of champagne within a bottle, producing eruptions with exceptional explosive potential.
Implications and Future Prospects
The implications of this research extend beyond scientific curiosity. The newfound understanding could aid in identifying untapped diamond deposits. Moreover, it offers insights into enigmatic volcanic eruptions that occur long after supercontinent breakups in regions presumed to be stable.
A Complex Symphony of Earth’s Processes
The observed phenomena signify a complex, orchestrated interplay of physical processes. While kimberlites exhibit this response, it is plausible that a myriad of Earth system processes are also influenced by this intricate dance of geological forces.