Scientists have uncovered a secret passage beneath Panama through which “wind” from the Earth’s mantle layer is “blowing.” The discovery could explain why the nation has few active volcanoes despite being in a geological hotspot.
According to research last month published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the opening is located 100 km (62 miles) under central Panama. It could be used as a route for mantle rock and other materials to travel over 1,600 km (1,000 miles), from their origin beneath the Galapagos Islands.
This passage, with its window shape, is found on the Cocos plate. It is responsible for the creation of the Central American Volcanic Arc, a series of volcanoes that push oceanic crust under the North American, Caribbean and Panama tectonic plates. Subduction is the process that causes lava to flow to the surface, and strong earthquakes.
However, the volcanism stops in western Panama, said the study’s lead author, David Bekaert, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts. Researchers were collecting fluid and rock samples from the area to study subduction dynamics when they discovered “exotic [geochemical] signatures”Similar to those in Galapagos.
We can compare volcanic systems to the body of a living organism; when the organism bleeds, it’s kind of like magma bleeding out of the Earth. The composition of the magma can be measured in much the same way as a blood type.
The team “measured an unexpected volcanic gas composition, sort of like when a human has a rare blood type,” Bekaert also added.
Live Science spoke to Bekaert about the findings of seismic imaging and mapping the area. “hole, a window through the [tectonic] slab”This allows mantle material to pass through. Peter Barry from WHOI compared this lateral movement of material deep inside the Earth to “a”. “mantle wind blowing through the window in the subduction zone.”
These are the best “slab window” under Panama makes it harder to trap water – needed to create flowing magma and promote volcano formation – in the area, Bekaert said, which could be one explanation for the lack of active volcanoes.
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