An international team of geologists and geophysicists surprised the world by disclosing that Iceland could be the tip of a sunken continent. In fact, they claim the territory is the last exposed remnant nearly the size of Texas, sunk 10 million years ago in the Atlantic Ocean.
They point out that this theory explains why some geological features of the ocean and land crust beneath Iceland are thicker than they really should be. Other experts told Live Science they remain skeptical about the idea of Iceland being the tip of a sunken continent, and are waiting for more information.
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“The region that has continental material underneath stretches from Greenland to Scandinavia,” said Gillian Foulger, lead author of “Iceland,” a chapter in the new book “In the Footsteps of Warren B. Hamilton: New Ideas in Earth Science” ( Geological Society of America, 2021) which describes the new theory. “Part of it in the west and east has now sunk below the water’s surface, but it’s still higher than it should be. If sea level dropped 600 meters [2.000 pés], we would see a lot more land above the ocean’s surface,” Foulger said.
“The North Atlantic region was a totally dry land that constituted the supercontinent of Pangea, about 335-175 million years ago,” he added. Geologists think that when Pangea began to break up, it formed the North Atlantic Ocean above a volcanic plume. However, Foulger and his team have another theory, as they believe Iceland may be the tip of a sunken continent.
According to him, the oceans formed south and north (not west and east) of Iceland, as soon as Pangea separated. As a result, the areas to the west and east were connected to what are now known as Greenland and Scandinavia.
“Many have this simplistic idea that a tectonic plate is like a dinner plate: it just splits in two and separates. But it’s more like a pizza or a piece of art made from different materials. In other words, a bit of fabric here and some ceramic there, so that different parts have different strengths”, explained Foulger.
“When we considered the possibility that this thick crust is continental, our data suddenly made sense,” he said in a statement. “This immediately led us to realize that the mainland was much larger than Iceland itself. As such, it is the tip of a submerged continent”.
This concept runs counter to major theories about the formation of the North Atlantic region, so there are hundreds of geophysicists and geologists against the idea. So, will Foulger and his team be able to convince them they’re right? By the way, are they right?
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